Deputies address clown costume concerns as Halloween approaches

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - With menacing clown sightings reported across the nation the past few weeks, including one in the Tennessee Valley at Meridianville Middle School, law enforcement officers have a recommendation.

"I would try to stay away from the clown costume, although it's always the parent's choice," said Captain Michael Salomonsky of the Madison County Sheriff's Office. "The clown costume itself has generated this heightened awareness of it."

He said it's that change in attitude about scary-looking clown masks, that should give you pause until the hype dies down.

"They may scare the kids," he said. "Here's what you have to realize: a practical joke to someone may alarm somebody else, and make them feel like their life is in danger or something's going to happen to them." He said you can't always control the actions of others who may be alarmed, even if you find the costume to be funny or on-trend. That makes wearing a clown costume a bit of a risk this year.

Still, clown costumes may be a hot item right now. Target recently pulled the clown masks from its shelves, but other costume shop owners locally tell us they're selling more clown stock than usual this year.

Capt. Salomonsky said if you or your child still wants to wear a clown costume, it's not illegal to do so. You still have the right to dress how you like, and deputies won't get in the way of your Halloween tradition unless they are called to.

"It depends on what they're doing," he commented. "If they're walking down the street and it's Halloween, and they're trick-or-treating with others, that's fine... If they're sneaking around bushes, hiding around cars, please call us. We'll find out what's going on. If they're just walking down the street minding their own business, there's nothing law enforcement can do. It's not illegal to simply wear a clown mask."

And here's another reminder: deputies don't want to chase down rumors as it relates to clown sightings. You're asked to think before sharing clown rumors on social media. Capt. Salomonsky said when they have to investigate clown sightings to determine whether or not there were criminal actions involved, that means their investigators have less time to investigate crimes such as burglary and homicide.