By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (October 4, 2016) – Social media, fake news reports and a readied supply of Halloween costumes have area residents on edge.
According to Police Chief Jason King, Stephenville Police Department received six calls Monday night from individuals reporting suspicious activity and costumed prowlers in a particular area of the city.
“All of the calls last night were on the Tarleton (State University) campus or in area immediately surrounding the campus,” King said.
Some calls to police dispatch reported someone dressed as a clown, while others saw an individual wearing the hockey mask made popular the Jason Vorhies character in the Friday the 13th movie series.
Sources say there were some reports of activities inside of residence halls on the Tarleton campus.
Sgt. Clell Murray with the Tarleton Police Department offered a brief response, saying he did not feel there was a legitimate threat.
“We are working some calls about clowns, and believe we have someone identified,” Murray said. “That’s all I can say about the investigation as it is ongoing.”
A single off-campus caller reported someone on their property.
“There was one house in the 1900 block of Sloan Street, a private residence, where someone knocked on the windows. There was no specific mention of clowns on that call, but it was during the same time period, between about 9:30 p.m. and 12:40 a.m.”
Police have confirmed the Purple Poo, university characters who wear robes and masks and could be mistaken for a clown, were not out last night.
King also said while residents reported seeing the masked figures, nobody has reported any sort of verbal exchange or threats.
But, the police are taking no chances. King said additional personnel will patrol city streets and areas like Stephenville City Park, where at least one event has been cancelled in the wake of the clown sightings.
Meanwhile, King said although donning costumes and traversing across the city is not illegal, such individuals can expect to be approached by police if they are sighted.
“We will want to know their intentions and also make sure they understand the fears of community members,” King said. “We want them to know whatever their reason, they are as much a risk to themselves as anyone else.”
King also asked concerned citizens call the police department or sheriff’s office when they witness any suspicious activity in their neighborhood.
The clown craze follows reports of similar activity across the nation, including one report that some news outlets have discredited.
In various reports, creepy clowns have been reported lingering in allies, woods and other areas. They sit in wait and jump out to surprise and scare unsuspecting passersby.
While many of those reports have led police to practical jokers, a more alarming story about a costume-clad individual being shot in the head in Fort Wayne, Indiana has been said to be untrue by more legitimate sources.
Not only is the story of the clown being in critical condition fake, so is the news outlet that published it, according to a column in The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette.
“It seems to have really picked up,” King said, referring to the reports.
He attributed some of the upturn in activity to pranksters dressing up as clowns and sharing their antics through social media.
Locally, an Instagram account threatened area residents with clown sightings in the area of Stephenville City Park and Bosque River Center.