Down with the clowns

CALLOUS clowns brandishing baseball bats and axes have inspired fear rather than cheer in the Latrobe Valley.

A masked miscreant was arrested in Moe on Sunday after allegedly terrorising McDonalds drive-thru customers with an axe and a Morwell newspaper deliverer was allegedly pursued by a bat-wielding jester amid a sinister craze sweeping the state.

The trend involves people dressing up as clowns in an attempt to scare others, often carrying either faux or real weapons to do so.

Six newspaper rounds had to be covered in the Morwell area this week “because of the clown situation” causing fear among deliverers and there have been several reports of clown sightings in the region.

An Express distribution spokesperson said they were told of “a run in with a clown that was holding a baseball bat and chased (a delivery person)”.

“Without these deliverers I don’t know what we’d do,” the spokesperson said.

“We’re already struggling with deliverers, finding them (and this doesn’t help).”

Police have warned this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.

The penalty for possessing an article of disguise is up to two years’ imprisonment and authorities are not amused by the situation.

“To ‘clown’ is to behave in a playful or comical way. Like many people in our community, we think the current clown purge is simply not funny,” police said.

“This behaviour is not amusing, and in many cases it is criminal.

“This arrest (in Moe) is a timely reminder that in Victoria we do not tolerate intimidation, the incitement of fear and carrying of weapons.”

The trend has drawn the ire of the Valley’s resident clown and 2014 Latrobe City citizen of the year Frank Bezzina, better known as Koko the Clown.

Mr Bezzina, who has entertained as a clown for the past two decades, said he received a mixed reception at his most recent gig on Saturday.

“I had probably 20 or 30 teenagers scared of me; a lot more than usual,” Mr Bezzina said.

“The hype is out there; I got back in my car and quickly took the makeup off just in case somebody wanted to be an idiot.”

Now apprehensive about future public appearances as Koko, Mr Bezzina said the current craze went against his personal motto that “clowns are born of a loving heart and a desire to bring happiness and joy to others”.

“These other clowns aren’t doing that,” he said.

“So long as I’m doing it in this area (it should be ok)… everybody knows who Koko the Clown is.

“I’ll keep plugging away but I’ve got to be careful… some teenager might want to try and be funny, be a hero and come and hit me or something like that.

“Everyone’s got to be careful (because) someone’s going to get hurt.”

Old Gippstown has banned clown costumes from its annual Halloween event at the heritage park on 28 October.

Park manager Kevin Reardon said it was a safety precaution for the event, which features a haunted house, trick or treating and a range of Halloween themed activities.

“In light of recent events and threats (presented) by that sort of group we just don’t think it’s appropriate for people to come to a kids’ event dressed as scary clowns,” Mr Reardon said.

“Just to safeguard kids and families we’ve discouraged people dressing as clowns.”

If you feel frightened at any time phone Triple Zero (000) or if you have information relating to this type of behaviour phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.