Authorities must “fight these developments as early as possible and counter the perpetrators hard and with no tolerance,” de Maizière told the Freie Presse on Thursday.
“When people feel themselves to be very threatened, that can be a punishable crime,” said the interior minister, adding that “when people are carrying chainsaws and knives, that has nothing to do with fun anymore.”
De Maizière’s comments come after Germany has witnessed a series of so-called “killer clown” attacks in recent weeks since the phenomenon spread from the United States.
On Wednesday two teenagers in Coburg, Bavaria, were attacked by a man wearing a clown mask and carrying a chainsaw, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reports.
The 16-year-olds were cycling through town when the man jumped out of a bush and started the saw’s engine. They were able to flee from the scene unharmed.
Police have not yet been able to track down the clown-clad man.
On Monday a teenager had to undergo an operation in hospital after he was stabbed by a friend whom he had attempted to scare by donning a clown mask and jumping out on him in the street.
Last Friday, a 10-year-old in Munich was chased and shouted at by a person in a clown mask, swinging an axe, according to police. The child managed to flee on his bicycle and report the incident to his mother, who called police.
Due to the rising number of incidents nationwide, de Maizière encouraged victims to report the incidents “so that police can go after them and the justice system can convict them as quickly as possible.”