'Pranksters' are dressing as clowns and jumping out of bushes to scare kids

Youngsters were left "incredibly distressed"
Youngsters were left "incredibly distressed"

Schoolchildren across Newcastle have been targeted by pranksters dressing up as clowns and jumping out from behind bushes.

Thought to be inspired by a craze in America, police have now been forced to step in after the youngsters were left "incredibly distressed".

Northumbria Police said they have received six separate reports since Friday, leaving parents and teachers very concerned.

They said no one had been attacked or injured in the incidents, but said they had also received further reports of clowns chasing pedestrians down the street.

Inspector Stephen Wykes said: "The people carrying out these pranks may think they're being funny but it is leaving a number of young people incredibly distressed.

"Parents of the children affected, and teachers at our local schools, are understandably concerned and we are working very closely with them as this is not something we want to see happening in our local community.

"There has only been a handful of these incidents, which we think have been inspired by a trend in America, but we are keen to stop them before they cause anyone else further distress.

"We are keen to identify those people who are dressing up as clowns so we can speak to them about their conduct and establish whether any criminal offence has taken place."

There have been reports across the US of men dressed up as clowns trying to lure children into woods as well as running around with knives and guns.

This has led to a number of arrests as well as police telling people to take photos of any clowns they see to help identify them. Anyone with information is asked to contact the police on 101.

Northumbria Police said a teenager had been arrested in Blakelaw, Newcastle, in connection with a clown incident. The force said he had a "bladed article".

A spokesman said: "This arrest should act as a clear warning to others who are actively seeking to cause distress and potentially harm others.

"This behaviour will not be tolerated by Northumbria Police and extra officers will be on hand to offer reassurance and catch those responsible for any criminal offences which have taken place."