Clown sightings reported locally, nationwide

If you make a clown into a villain you eliminate the ability for them to bring happiness to people, Daryl Baldwin said in regards to the viral phenomenon spreading across the country.

Current Town of Johnstown councilman, who was once referred to as “Wizzie” retired from the clown business about 10 years ago.

“The main reason I gave it up was because it was fun to be scared of clowns,” Baldwin said.

According to the Associated Press, since August, people in states including South Carolina, Maryland and Georgia have reported scary or suspicious encounters with people dressed like clowns, spreading fear through several communities.

Local officials have only received a few clown calls, but are still aware of the situation and taking it seriously.

“We haven’t had any calls, but I think it’s going across the country and people are latching on to it and using it,” Fulton County Sheriff Rich Giardino said.

He expects the clown calls could be one of three things: people playing a harmless joke, people being malicious or misrepresentation.

Capt. Mike Scott from the Gloversville Police Department said there have been two reports of clown sightings in the city. One report ended up being a backyard scarecrow, while the other has yet to be determined.

Scott said there are several cameras throughout the city and police have not seen any clowns.

“I wouldn’t deem it a problem yet,” he said.

City of Gloversville Mayor Dayton King posted on Facebook Friday in regards to the clown spottings.

“We will not cancel trick or treat. I think everyone should be aware of what’s going on and be cautious. Nationally, there has only been 12 instances of people being arrested while dressing as clowns since this “craze” has begun. While I realize some people would like to see clown wigs and make-up taken off the shelves, I personally think that’s ridiculous,” King said.

The Gloversville Police Department we will treat people the same whether they are dressed as a clown or anything else on Halloween, he said.

“As long as no crime is being committed, there is no issue. We would also like to remind people that falsifying a report is a crime,” King said.

Sgt. Michael Millias of the Johnstown Police Department said he has not encountered any clown calls.

“If someone is just wearing a mask, we will see who they are and what they’re doing. I know it’s creeping people out, but it’s not illegal,” he said.

Giardino said it’s not about their outfit, but what they do while they are in it. Millias used harassment or trespassing as examples of something the person could be doing in a costume that would be considered a crime.

“But someone just walking down the sidewalk in one [a clown costume] is not illegal,” he said.

Baldwin started doing magic and making balloons around 1975. He said when Stephen King’s movie “It” came out in the early 1990s teens started having a hatred for clowns.

The AP reported that members of a Shriners clown group are backing out of a Maryland parade appearance. Tom Holland of the Cumberland-based Ali Ghan Shriners club said Wednesday that some members of his clown unit won’t march in the Oct. 29 Alsatia Mummers’ Parade in Hagerstown. He says the unit has about 15 active members, and some, including Holland, feel uncomfortable about participating. Holland said they’re not out to scare people – they just want to make children smile and raise money for Shriners hospitals.

Baldwin, who’s switched to certified master balloon artist after retiring, expects his friends in the clown industry are also upset by these reports.

“[The fear of clowns] is the reason people are losing their jobs,” Baldwin said.

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