Utahns on edge over alleged sightings of people dressed as clowns

SALT LAKE CITY - T.J. Cooper and his friends say they haven't seen anyone dressed in clown costumes in the Ogden area, Tuesday, and they're making sure it stays that way.

"We got baseball bats in our car if we need them," Cooper said.

The concern over people in clown costumes in the area started Monday, when someone with a Facebook profile picture of a clown posted how they were watching kids play on an Ogden school's playground. The post goes on to say that they want to do sexual things to the little girls.

"It made me uncomfortable," Cooper added. "What they said about little girls isn't OK. Stuff like that is not appropriate for little children let alone any woman."

People dressing in scary clown outfits became a nationwide problem a couple months ago, starting on the East Coast. Sightings of clowns attempting to lure children into wooded areas, and clowns looking through windows in homes had led many police departments to speak out about what they plan to do to those causing trouble.

"Obviously, they can't be doing anything criminal," said Lt. Brian Lohrke with Unified Police.

He notes that people in clown costumes standing on sidewalks or streets aren't necessarily doing anything illegal. Lohrke said people have to use common sense when judging whether or not to approach them.

"Assault is assault," he said.

Costume stores in Salt Lake City hope they can curb the problem before it even begins.

"I'll pull them aside and say, 'if you're wearing this, with the intent to scare someone, it could be a lot more dangerous than you think,'" said Laura Bedore, who owns Mask Costume store in Salt Lake City.

And while climbing incidents of people scaring others in clown costumes is on the rise, Bedore said, she hasn't seen an uptick of people buying costumes in her store.

"Not one increase, not even a blip on the radar.”