Police are warning that the sudden rise of pranksters dressing as clowns to scare people will rise in the run-up to Halloween, and that those who do so risk being arrested.

The ‘killer clown’ craze began recently in the US, and there are now reports of it occurring in the UK. There were 14 clown-related incidents being attended to by Thames Valley Police in 24 hours last weekend, with even more since then: London, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Norwich are among the places where sightings have been reported.

While dressing as a clown is nothing new during Halloween, it appears that the tone has slightly darkened a little more, lately, with reports that some clowns have had weapons – four children in Durham were followed by a clown brandishing a knife.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “In the run up to Halloween it is expected that these types of incidents will increase. Our primary responsibility is identifying and investigating those incidents where a criminal offence has occurred.

“However, anti-social behaviour can leave people feeling scared, anxious and intimidated, and I would urge those who are causing fear and alarm to carefully consider the impact their actions have on others.

“Whilst we do not want to stop people from enjoying themselves, it is important that while having fun, they remember to act in a responsible manner, and understand that they could be prosecuted if a criminal offence is committed.”

Autumn Nights, an annual campaign run by the Met, is launching later this month, and will see police officers work with other agencies to increase the number of reassurance patrols taking place during the spooky Halloween holiday.