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Expert Offers Tips On What To Do If You Encounter A 'Creepy Clown'

HAMDEN, Conn. (CBSNewYork) -- Reports of strange sightings and encounters with creepy clowns have been raising concerns all across the nation.

Clown-related social media posts making threats against schools and students have led to arrests in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. At least one school district in Connecticut has also banned clown costumes during the Halloween season.

Behavioral expert Lauren Sardi, a sociology professor at Quinnipiac University, believes it is mostly a copycat phenomenon, WCBS 880's Fran Schneidau reported.

But that to some can be easier said than done. Sardi said the fear factor comes from the inability to see the face behind the clown makeup or mask.

"It makes it more difficult for us to read facial expressions and that's what we look for as humans," Sardi said. "That's how we interact and how we want to connect with other people and if we can't quite tell how someone is feeling or sort of read where their eyes are moving to, that makes us feel very uneasy."

"There's a sort of underlying feeling that we have, where we're kind of like, 'But are they happy, really? Do they mean us no harm? Why are they acting this way if they're supposed to be these good characters?'"

When encountering a clown, Sardi said it's best not to fuel the fire. She suggested treating them as though they are not deviant leaves them without the reaction they had hoped for, Schneidau reported.

A top police official also urged New Yorkers not to believe the hype. "Don't be afraid of the clowns," the NYPD's John Miller said Monday.

Unusual creepy clown reports started popping up in South Carolina back in August, but since then the stories have spread to nearly a dozen states.

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