Creepy clowns lurking around Gainesville

Scary sightings have residents on edge, arming themselves for defense

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A sighting of a clown lurking around a Gainesville apartment complex late at night now has some residents scared and  on edge and others have even begun patrolling the area. 

The Gainesville Police Department said it first received a call late Tuesday evening about someone dressed like a clown creeping around the Georgetown apartment complex on NW 16th Avenue, which is located less than 2 miles away from the University of Florida campus.

"It's scary because, especially, I like to watch my puppy, as well as my kids around here. We've been here two years and haven't had any problems yet. There's a bunch of kids around here. They should have that around this neighborhood," said Andrew Payne, who lives in the complex."Seeing someone like that come out of the bushes, it's, like, man -- only two options. 

Payne did not elaborate on what the two options are, but added, "Things could get pretty ugly really fast."

The Police Department said it has officers patrolling the area. 

"We had officers there in 5-6 minutes and, unfortunately, we were unable to locate anything. We had multiple officers in the area, but were not able to locate anything," said GPD Public Information Officer Ben Tobias.

Gainesville is not the only area where clowns have been spotted -- the weird trend has also popped up in Nassau County, Ocala, Georgia and around the country.

The legally vexing issue is that the clowns don't touch anyone or make any threat. The only real crime they're committing is an obscure state law that doesn't not allow people to wear a mask. 

"It's a state law and has to occur in a law enforcement officer's presence. So we would have to see the clown and the mask and them trying to scare people to make a physical arrest," Tobias said. 

But the clowns are no laughing matter and many members of the community are taking the incidents very seriously. 

Miguel Turull, another resident at the apartment complex, said his brother took it upon himself to patrol the area -- and he's not the only one. 

"I'd say it's bad news for the clown, to be honest," Turull said. "For one, my brother went out with a BB gun last night, not really a big threat. But he met someone with a real gun and he said, 'I'd better not catch now clown around here or it's going to be bad business for the clown.'"

The Police Department said it does not condone anyone taking a gun and, essentially, becoming a vigilante. Tobias said they want police officers to handle the situation. 

Anyone who sees someone dressed up like a clown with an apparent motive to intimidate is asked to call police. 

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