NEW YORK (AP) -- Don't fear the creepy clowns.
That was the message on Monday from a top New York Police Department official whose main job is protecting the city from terrorism.
Asked about the unexplained spike in reports in other places of menacing by people dressed as clowns, Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters that the department had assessed supposed clown threats against the city on social media and deemed them harmless.
"We're tracking it but we don't see any real threat here," Miller said. "We have tried to avoid falling into the trap of putting extra police protection or presence in places where we've had these."
He added: "Our main message is don't believe the hype and don't be afraid of the clowns."
Since August, people in upstate New York and in states including South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Georgia have reported scary or suspicious incidents involving people dressed as clowns. And two suburban school districts on Long Island recently beefed up security after alerting police of clown reports.
On Sunday, a commander at a Queens police precinct also cautioned against overreacting.
"The increase in creepy clown sightings is dangerous," he wrote in a tweet. "It causes panic & alarm."