TAMPA, Florida— A rare warning from law enforcement on what NOT to wear for Halloween. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco held a news conference Friday afternoon on the same day Pasco County Schools were on alert following social media chatter over threatening clowns. That’s right -- clowns.
Apparently a string of clown scares have sparked fear across the nation and is now spreading to Florida. Some reports describe creepy clowns trying to lure children to wooded areas after dark while others have threatened violence at schools.
The Sheriff stresses there have been no credible threats in Pasco County but says they have received calls from concerned citizens citing masked individuals wearing clown clothes. One threat even prompted Sheriff’s Deputies to patrol a public park after dark.
“I know people are fed up,” said Sheriff Nocco. “They’re tired of seeing demonstrations and riots. They’re sick and tired of terroristic threats. Now they’ve got to deal with these damn clown things going on.”
The Sheriff says he’s concerned about copycat pranksters doing something stupid and upsetting the wrong person.
“They’re saying if one of these clowns comes on to my property they’re going to get shot,” the Sheriff says of social media posts he’s been seeing online from Pasco residents.
“The kids who think 'hey this is just a joke', I warn you, don’t get caught up in this movement,” said Nocco. “All you’re going to do is get yourself hurt or get someone else hurt. I would highly recommend do not use clown outfits as your preferred choice. Go with something else.”
Police in Tampa have also heard the social media chatter but stress there have been no credible threats locally.
“I’m more worried about kids getting hit by a car as they run across the street, but every year we have someone who feels bothered or threatened about the way that someone else would be dressed,” said Tampa Police spokesman Steve Hegarty.
At Theatrical Fantasy Costumes on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park, creepy clown costumes have always been a Halloween favorite.
“We have sold a lot of clown stuff,” said owner Rick Paul who has operated his store for 30 years.
“I think most of the stuff that we've sold has been for people’s private little haunted houses,” said Paul. “I haven’t dealt with anyone that’s bought it as a random creepy person.”
Paul says Halloween is all about having fun, but after hearing from law enforcement, he too is considering issuing a warning to customers purchasing clown costumes.
“Scare your friends if you want to, scare your relatives, but don’t just scare random people on the street cause that’s not going to go over well.”
Theatrical Fantasy Costumes has thousands of other options besides clown costumes. They tell us the most popular this year: Harley Quinn and the Joker from the movie Suicide Squad.