(CBS) – It’s not necessarily illegal to be a part of the national “creepy clown” trend, but one Illinois police department is giving pranksters fair warning: Spooked people may respond in self-defense.

“These incidents have people on high alert, and those deciding to dress as clowns are warned to take great care and consideration in doing so, as it is possible that those they target may respond quickly and with force if they feel they must defend themselves.”

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So says the Antioch Police Department in the far north suburbs. It released a community advisory about the spate of incidents that have freaked people out. Across the nation, people have reported sinister-looking clowns, though some incidents have turned out to be hoaxes.

Antioch has likewise received several reports of people dressed as clowns, mostly “engaged in benign behaviors, such as standing or walking through a parking lot or down the street,” police officials say.

In another case, officers responded to a report of someone in a car wearing a clown mask while holding a baseball bat outside the window.

What to do? Police officials offer these safety tips:

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-Parents should teach children to stay away from strangers dressed as clowns.

-Dressing up as a clown isn’t illegal, but observers should call 9-1-1 if a disguised person is “behaving suspiciously” or harassing them.

-Don’t confront someone dressed as a clown.

-Note the clown’s outfit and any vehicle involved in the encounter.

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Lastly, Antioch police emphasize that people considering dressing up as a clown should realize “they may be putting their own safety at risk” if someone takes the prank the wrong way.