McDonald’s is cutting back on Ronald McDonald appearances as reports of “creepy clown” sightings continue to rise.
The fast food chain said Tuesday that it is being “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participating in community events” due to the “current climate around clown sightings in communities,” according to the Associated Press.
The company’s decision comes after multiple reports of clown sightings across the Southeast — several of them false, authorities in states are alleging.
In two recent cases in Georgia and North Carolina, three people were accused of falsely reporting clown sightings and face misdemeanor charges, PEOPLE confirmed.
A Greensboro, North Carolina spokeswoman previously told PEOPLE that the sightings have been worrisome.
“It is alarming to the public and a drain on police resources,” Susan Danielsen, spokeswoman, said. “We just don’t know at this point, because we haven’t had the chance to interview any clowns.”
While it’s not illegal to dress as a clown in Greensboro, Danielson said the city does have an ordinance that prohibits people from wearing a mask within city limits.
The Greensboro Police Department is also discouraging “copycat behavior,” she said.