DENVER -- Creepy clown sightings may have started as a way to scare people on social media, but authorities -- including here in Colorado -- are taking threats of clowns coming to "shoot up schools" very seriously.
So are parents.
“I don’t think it’s funny,” say Cortney Kuenzler, whose 9-year-old daughter attends Soar Charter School in the Green Valley Ranch area. “I don’t think as adults we should be dressing up as clowns scaring kids. I don’t see how we get a high out of that. It’s not funny.”
The CEO of TRAC Intelligence, a threat analysis consultant, told Denver7 that motives are hard to determine. David Firester said some people may don clown costumes to scare people.
He said others may report seeing clowns just to get out of going to school.
He also said there could be more sinister reasons.
“If you have threats to malls in the area or other public institutions,” he said, “it’s not just a case of wanting to get out of school.”
Firester likens clown hoaxes to swatting incidents.
“People have been using a swatting technique in terms of generating a SWAT or emergency police response to a particular location,” he said. “The location exists, the threat does not.”
On Friday, both police and school authorities across Colorado reassured parents that threats made on social media are not credible.
Denver7 has compiled the following list of where the fake threats have been made in Colorado:
Denver Police responded to the area of East 53rd Avenue and Kittredge Street at 8:20 Friday morning, on a report that a student saw a clown across the street and the clown grabbed her and tried to kidnap her.
The sheriff’s office had a bit of fun with the post, saying sarcastically that deputies “were not at all spooked by responding to a school that looks like a castle, surrounded by corn fields, in the dark, during the Halloween season.”
The sheriff’s office never found the supposed clown, who was allegedly dressed in a green shirt and wearing a green wig.
The Jefferson County Schools District has sent out a letter to parents notifying them about rumors among students about threats of school violence.
Poudre High School's principal had teachers read a message to all students Thursday morning, according to the Coloradoan newspaper. It said:
"Students, you need to realize that social media is powerful. Posts that threaten safety are not a harmless joke. This particular post heightened fears in students, parents and school officials. We will not tolerate people threatening the safety of our school community. Actions like this are subject to school discipline and criminal charges where police see fit."
Both police and the school district said the threats were not credible.
Palisade High School reported early Friday morning that school officials had received reports of a Facebook threat against students in Grand Junction, reports KJCT-TV in Grand Junction.
The school's principal said a Facebook post by "Clowny Headsmasher" threatened to steal kids and "bad things will happen."
District 51 reportedly sent out a text message stating that the threats have been investigated and no threats were found to local students.
The Mesa County Sheriff's Office also responded to the threats on their Facebook page. They said, "we were able to determine that the posts originated from out of state and found no direct threats to any schools in Mesa County."
A student at Northridge High School in Greeley admitted to making a threat on social media that caused a scare and additional security at two Greeley schools this week.