A few lines from an old Joni Mitchell song go, “But where are the clowns? Send in the clowns. Don’t bother; they’re here.”

Those lines are eerily applicable here in Eau Claire, as earlier this month scary clowns were spotted on the campus of the University of Wisconsin.

The creepy trend has been spreading across the United States since early September, causing federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to offer advice to local police departments on how best to manage the crisis.

The Eau Claire police report receiving “a handful of calls” regarding clown sightings this month. No officers have made actual contact with anyone who was costumed as a clown, however.

Students on the Eau Claire campus have been discussing the clown incidents among themselves and in class. Some reported being frightened to go out walking after dark.

One Eau Claire police officer said that they can’t arrest someone simply for being dressed up as a clown, stating he felt that most instances were people seeking attention rather than having an intent to commit mayhem.

But the officer added,”If they are chasing people, if they are . . . threaten[ing] somebody . . . [or] doing things that are going to cause a problem . . . police can get involved.”

Some commenters on a local media site said they intended to attack or kill anyone they saw dressed as clowns. The officer reminded residents that violence is unacceptable toward people based on how they appear.

With Halloween looming on the weekend’s horizon, it’s likely that there will be more clown sightings in and around Eau Claire. It’s important to remember to avoid crossing the line from harmless — if very creepy — pranks to criminal behavior that will require a vigorous defense in court.

Source: WQOW, “Clown sightings reported on UW-Eau Claire campus,” Kaitlyn Riley, Oct. 06, 2016