FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. — Fayette County authorities are warning the public to literally stop clowning around.

Grown men posing as clowns have recently been seen in the area, and the county’s Sheriff Steve Kessler said in a release Thursday that he wasn’t amused.

“It’s time for this joke to end,” Kessler said in the release. “If individuals persist in this conduct then we will begin making arrests and see how well these ‘scary clowns’ like spending time in the Southern Regional Jail.”

The pranks haven’t been limited to Fayette County. Earlier this week, Monongalia County Police reported that people had complained of clowns in the woods. A photo of a sighting in Mercer County also was posted on social media.

The Fayette Sheriff’s Office has said they’ve received many complaints of clowns trying to scare residents, armed with various weapons. There was a sighting in Mount Hope Wednesday night.

“The goal of these ‘scary clowns’ appears to be an intent to scare as many people as possible,” the statement said. “While most of the individuals engaging in this conduct are likely doing so purely for amusement, they need to be aware that such conduct is illegal.”

A portion of W.Va. State Code actually prohibits the wearing of any type of mask in public, with “limited exceptions.”

The release also noted that many people have a legitimate phobia of clowns, and that those posing as clowns could be the victims of violence.

“Many of our citizens carry concealed handguns and if one of these ‘clowns’ frightens an armed individual the results could be tragic,” the statement said. “A citizen confronted by one of these armed ‘clowns’ has no way to determine if this is merely someone playing a harmless prank or someone taking advantage of the latest trend to commit an armed robbery or assault under the guise of a joke.”

Finally, the release said the pranks are waste of police resources, saying that “grown men (should) have the common sense to refrain from such juvenile behavior.”

The 2015 Chapman University Survey on American fears found that 6.8 percent of responders were ‘afraid or very afraid’ of clowns.

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