GREENVILLE, South Carolina -- Ken Miller, the police chief of Greenville, South Carolina was clear on Thursday, September 1st: "The clowning around needs to stop."
Miller held a joint press conference with Greenville County Sheriff's Master Deputy Ryan Flood to discuss increasing reports of clown sightings in the Upstate.
Clown anxieties began on August 24th when residents at Fleetwood Manor Apartments received a letter about multiple complaints regarding "a clown or a person dressed in clown clothing taking children or trying to lure children in the woods."
Witness reported seeing clowns near the complex, attempting to entice children with cash and green laser lights. One teen claimed a clown knocked on the door of his home after school.
While officials who investigated the claims said they have yet to find any substantial evidence indicating the presence of clowns, they have continued to receive tips about sightings across the county.
At the press conference Thursday, Miller said there have been four reported clown sightings within city limits. He said the agency isn't clear if the clowns are one or two people acting repeatedly, or random pranks by multiple individuals.
According to Miller, the clowns spotted in Greenville have not attempted to make contact with bystanders, but have simply "stood there to be seen."
He said, with other similar sightings across the country, police don't know if the occurrences could be viral marketing for Rob Zombie's upcoming film 31, which features carnival workers who are kidnapped on the night before Halloween.
"We do know it's striking fear among members of our public," the chief said.
Flood encouraged anyone who sees a clown to call 911 and, if they can safely, try to get a good description and a photo or video. He reminded the community to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings.
He said claims of clowns trying to lure children have not been substantiated with evidence, but the Sheriff's Office is taking reports seriously.
Those who have been dressing up as clowns could face charges, Miller said, because many of the costumes are against the law and city ordinance.
"We will charge you," he said. "We really don't want to, but we will."