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Singapore

Multiple police reports lodged against 'clowns' approaching children at primary schools

The education centre involved, Speech Academy Asia, has apologised for causing safety concerns.

SINGAPORE: The police are investigating incidents where people dressed as clowns were reported to have approached children at various primary schools. 

Multiple reports were lodged, the police told CNA on Monday (Sep 20), adding that they are “verifying the facts with an education centre on their alleged involvement in the incidents”.

The police did not name the education centre, but Speech Academy Asia has apologised over safety concerns caused by its employee dressed in a clown costume outside various primary schools.

Photos circulating on social media show a man dressed as a clown outside what appears to be Temasek Primary School at Bedok South Avenue 3.

Tao Nan School, which is located in Marine Parade, informed parents in a notice that the police had alerted them of people dressed as clowns “seen loitering around primary schools and requesting (students) to follow them”.

Messages circulating on social media also alleged that the people dressed as clowns had offered money to children to follow them.

COMPANY APOLOGISES FOR STUNT, HALTS "ROADSHOWS"

Speech Academy Asia acknowledged that the promoter dressed as a clown is one of its employees, but stressed that its team members "do not offer any form of monetary rewards for children to follow them”.

“Additionally, our promoters strictly do not take any children out of the vicinity," said the company in a Facebook post on Monday afternoon.

The education centre, a public speaking school for children, has five branches in Singapore, including at Tampines and Parkway Parade.

“We truly understand your concern for the safety of your children; hence we will be putting an immediate stop to our roadshows,” said Speech Academy Asia.

"Once again, we truly apologise for any inconveniences caused, and we thank you for your kind understanding," said the company in its statement.

The firm's director, Kelvin Tan, told CNA that the "roadshows" were meant to generate new leads for the centre, which has seen fewer sign-ups amid the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

He added that the company used to do such publicity activities in shopping centres, but had to change tack as fewer people were visiting malls.

"We thought of doing it outside the schools because parents would come pick up their children there. We were just trying to get the business going ... But it came out the wrong way," said Mr Tan.

He also explained that during these roadshows, promoters typically dress in various costumes - but the latest clown costume "was a little too scary".

Dozens of complaints were seen on Speech Academy's Facebook page.  

“What a wrong way to promote your classes and lessons. You are causing unnecessary (panic) to the parents and the children,” said Facebook user Joyce Leow.

Speaker of Parliament and MP Tan Chuan-Jin (PAP-Marine Parade) also weighed in on the incident, saying in a separate Facebook post on the matter: “It’s not amusing and just plain dangerous.”

The Singapore Police Force reminded members of the public to stay away from strangers and to report any suspicious people or activities.

"Call 999 if you require immediate assistance from the police, or visit the nearest Neighbourhood Police Centre to speak to a police officer," it said.

Source: CNA/cl(cy)

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