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Social media reports of a "clown purge" coming to the Muncie area are unfounded.
MPD: Muncie clown reports unfounded
Suspicious reports of clown sightings around Muncie left many in the city and on Ball State's campus on high alert Sept. 27.
News of people seeing individuals at different spots around the city dressed in clown costumes and possibly carrying weapons began on social media around 10 p.m. Sept. 27.
But police have been getting calls all week, said Muncie Police Department Capt. Steve Cox.
The only thing MPD officers found last night was a group of three people, one holding a clown mask but not wearing it, Cox said. He doesn't think it's enough to tie into the widespread fear of the clowns "purging" around the U.S.
"I think the biggest thing with this is the social media hype," Cox said. "As far as Muncie is concerned, it's just to the point where it's a little bit of a light panic."
The claims were all on social media, creating fear and panic in the community. These calls were unfounded, Cox said, and simply aren't happening. That isn't to say there aren't occasional people walking around with masks on, but it isn't a widespread activity hundreds of people are engaging in.
"I think primarily it's most likely people playing jokes on people," Cox said. "There's always that one friend who has a phobia of clowns. ... Unfortunately, it may get to the point where people think it's funny to dress up as a clown and walk around to try to scare people, but this could get dangerous."
If people perceive those dressed up as clowns as a real threat, they could be in danger. People were even talking about shooting and attacking the clowns if they came anywhere near their house.
The fear has been widespread, Cox said, and MPD has had kids in school and parents asking them about it.
"If we do come across anyone who thinks it's cute, we'll deal with it," Cox said. "We need to eliminate the fear going on with this right now. ... We're not going to allow [people] to use that fear and intensify it."
For Cox, it's surprising MPD even needs to be having this conversation.
"We have enough problems going on in the community now — illegal drugs, robberies," he said. "That's where we need to focus our attention, but now we need to take care of this situation and ease people's fears about it. It's ridiculous."
Throughout the night, Ball State students were listening in on the police scanner to try to figure out what was going on. But Cox cautions against doing that.
"They don't know, they're not going to understand everything we're saying," he said. "They may get partial information, and that partial information may lead to a misunderstanding. It's not a good idea to [listen in]."
Many students opted to stay inside, listening to the scanner or taking shelter, but others made an attempt to find the reported individuals.
Anthony Winbush, a senior sales major, even went as far to drive around Muncie, hoping to help confirm or deny the rumors. He went around to the parks, but didn't end up seeing anything suspicious.
"I wasn't scared. I had 911 on speed dial. If anything had happened, I would have called," Winbush said. "I just felt like I didn't want people at Ball State to feel unsafe, I wanted to make sure I knew we were safe."
Kelsey Spridgeon, sophomore family studies major, was also out.
“We walked around the whole campus," Spridgeon said. "No, we saw nothing, we saw a lot of cops around and stuff, but that’s about it."
Clown sightings began in Greenville, South Carolina, where there were reports of suspicious clowns luring children into the woods. The police did not find anything, according to The Associated Press, but since the first sighting, the number of incidents reported has risen. They have since popped up in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, New Jersey, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. The most recent sightings have been in Marion County, Florida.
"It’s social media driven, unfortunately," Cox said. "People are exploiting people’s fears because they think it’s a fun thing to do, and it's turned into something ridiculous."