October 4, 2016
For Immediate Release
Contact: Bernie Weisenfeld- PIO/GCPO
Re.: Clown acts can lead to court consequences
If anyone thinks they’re in a circus ring when making false reports of “creepy clowns” - a current activity for idle minds around the country- they should know that this can be a form of cyber-harassment in New Jersey that is a crime.
In Gloucester County, two juveniles have been charged in Washington Township with this offense and there have been reports in other municipalities of attempts to frighten children with unfounded alerts that someone in a clown suit and mask is after them.
Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton has some advice for those who want to continue this risky mischief:
New Jersey’s justice system takes such acts seriously. Look online at New Jersey statutes 2C:28-4 (false reports to law enforcement), 2C:33-3 (false public alarms), 2C:33-4 (communications to harass) and 2C:33-4.1 (cyber-harassment) in the state Criminal Code. A juvenile adjudicated delinquent for violation of 2C:33-3 faces a six-month suspension of driving privileges and other possible penalties.
An adult convicted of creating a false public alarm when a serious injury occurs is guilty of a second-degree crime. A sentence of five to 10 years in prison is possible.
The impact on policing communities can be significant. “Diverting law enforcement personnel to chasing down rumors is costly financially, and can also distance officers from real emergencies,” Dalton said.
Public education can suffer. “School lockdowns have occurred because of false reports of clown threats, meaning that classroom instruction is disrupted for hours or longer,” the prosecutor said.
“Responsible parents should point out to their children these harmful effects of what seem to be innocent pranks,” Dalton said.