D.C. Police Surveilled Clowns on Social Media, Leaked Docs Show

D.C. Police Surveilled Clowns on Social Media, Leaked Docs Show
Photo: Mark Kolbe, Getty Images

A few years ago, intelligence personnel with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington D.C. spent some unknown amount of time and money monitoring the online accounts of people dressed like clowns.

A recent data breach involving the MPD has revealed a 14-page internal report titled “SOCIAL MEDIA CLOWN THREATS.” Dated October 2016, the doc shows law enforcement’s intense interest in “threats coming from [online] accounts created by unknown persons with profile pictures of clowns.” As first reported by The Guardian, these accounts, with handles like “snappytheclown_” and “killerclownamber,” were apparently the source of a number of vague threats against regional public and charter schools throughout the D.C. area, the outlet reports.

Indeed, police apparently became so concerned about the threats and sightings that they attempted track down the people responsible. In one case, police ascertained a phone number that was used to create a creepy clown Instagram account, “crepp_dc_clown,” the leaked document shows. In another incident, police fretted over an Instagram message “sent from user ‘dmv_clownss’ leading [social media] readers to believe clowns with bad intentions will visit schools in the Southern Maryland Region,” it says. Christ, there’s nothing worse than a clown with bad intentions.

Gizmodo has viewed the MPD document, which comes from the agency’s Homeland Security Bureau Intelligence Fusion Division. The bulletin, which seems to have been circulated to various officials, makes it pretty clear that the clowns are a serious national security threat. It reads:

As most of you all are aware, circulating on more of the popular Social Media sites today like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, there have been threats coming from accounts created by unknown persons with profile pictures of clowns. These threats not only have been coming int targeting the District of Columbia Public Schools but also Prince George’s County Public Schools systems and others “NATIONWIDE” today.

The document further states:

Members of the Criminal Intelligence Branch have been monitoring “open source” Social Media and attempting to capture as many of these threats as possible. Members have also responded out to various schools in the District of Columbia in an effort to follow up with some of these threats and possibly where they may have been generated from.

It’s a little hard to blame the police for this one. For one thing, clowns are objectively fucking terrifying. For another, the MPD’s investigation took place around the same time that a bizarre rash of clown-in-the-wild sightings were occurring all over the place. It was 2016 and, for some reason, there were ongoing reports of ominous Juggalo-type beings showing up at gas stations and in parking lots and vacant fields, all across the country — and also in other countries. It was not a fun time.

Whatever spurred the sightings, police departments naturally became pretty worried about it — as you would, if you thought a supernatural clown army was plotting an imminent takeover of your community.

On the other hand, almost all of the incidents outlined in this leaked police document occurred in early to mid-October. In other words, they all happened around Halloween — you know, that time of year when people dress up like scary clowns and do dumb stuff to scare each other? Might that have had something to do with it?

The onset of the clowndemic also occurred not long before the premiere of the Warner Brothers production of Stephen King’s It, leading some to hypothesize that the sightings were actually part of a shadow marketing scheme designed to create buzz around the film. The studio denied the allegations.