venue

The Venue’s guitar sign that hangs above the Angola club in this November file photo has become a downtown icon. Police investigated a pranking game of tagging people with clothespins that occurred Saturday night.

ANGOLA — The Angola police have investigated case of the mysterious clothespins that appeared on the clothes of the Venue clients this weekend.

The clothespins got the attention of police because they can be used as signals for sex trafficking.

The Venue owner Sean Hanson said on The Venue’s Facebook page that a woman who was at the club on Saturday night complained about a clothespin that someone had put on her shirt.

After that another customer complained that he saw a clothespin on a shirt, too. They said that they overheard a group of men discussing that the clothespins were used to mark females as targets of sex trafficking.

“We are hearing that there were multiple people that had these clothespins pinned to them,” said Hanson.

The Club announced that it contacted both the Steuben County Sheriff’s Office and the Angola Police Department and neither of them heard of the practice that clothespins were used as a target sign for sex trafficking. Hanson expressed hope that it was not trafficking but a prank.

“I am really hoping that this is not related to sex trafficking and just someone pranking people, but who knows with the world we live in today,” he said.

The establishment promised to continue to investigate the situation until they had the answers and will disclose what they find.

Monday morning, Angola Police said on their official letterhead that they were made aware of The Venue Facebook entry from the Sunday night, and they identified a group of four males who admitted that they played a “tag” game in The Venue.

The goal of the game was to go unnoticed when placing a clothespin on somebody else’s clothes, police said. If caught when placing the pin, the goal was to get that person involved in the game, too.

The interviews the police conducted to investigate the issue made it clear that multiple individuals who were not initially involved, joined the game. No criminal charges will be filed, police said.

Detective Mike Wood said that he talked to the original female who made the Facebook post, and then he talked to a male and female who had clothespins on the female, and then he spoke to the individuals who started the game.

Wood said that the individuals that started the game reached out to him themselves as they were concerned that the game had turned into an issue. They contacted the police department to explain that it was not about sex trafficking, it was just a game they were playing.

Initially, one of the males came up with the idea of the game and brought the clothespins, and later he talked his friends who joined him at The Venue into playing the game with him. They estimated roughly 20 other people in the bar had joined them, and they were tagging any person they could.

“It wasn’t just females, it was males and females,” said Wood.

As to how the idea of clothespins as sex trafficking targets signs, Wood said, that to his understanding it was somebody making an assumption as to what the clothespins could have meant.

“There were no signs of sex trafficking, and there was nothing we ever heard of involved people having clothespins attached to them as a sign of sex trafficking,” Wood said.

The Venue said that although they did not “completely understand what the point of this ‘game’ was” they were thankful to learn this had nothing to do with sex trafficking. The club’s management also thanked detective Wood and the Angola Police Department for all their help.

“Thank you to everyone that has reached out today with any information about the situation that happened at The Venue (Saturday) night,” the club said.

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