Hate remarks targeting Jewish people found March 1 in a Toms River playground launch a search for the originator - to determine if it's a bias incident or a bias crime.

Bias crime probe (Toms River PD)

Toms River police said they found the phrase "Burn the Jews," and several obscenities, scratched into playground equipment at Riverwood Park.

Inquiries began pouring into headquarters shortly after the first report surfaced in an online news feed at about 11 AM. The incident had been reported to the Lakewood Civilian Patrol.

Police observed that in addition to being odious, the graffiti was badly-spelled. Township buildings and grounds workers needed about two hours to eradicate it.

Tensions have run high in Toms River, and in other communities bordering Lakewood, where real estate agents have fanned out with what residents describe as relentless, high-pressure attempts to obtain homes for the growing Orthodox Jewish community.

Whether housing is needed for families or for conversion into dormitory space isn't clear. Lakewood hosts what has been described as the world's largest Yeshiva. A one-family home in Lakewood that burned Monday was found to have bedding for 27 people inside. No one was injured.

Toms River Mayor Thomas Kelaher quickly condemned the graffiti incident.

“As soon as we found out about this incident, I began to monitor the Police Department’s investigation.  I also asked the Director of the Township’s Parks, Buildings and Grounds Department to remove the panel on the playground equipment immediately,” Kelaher said in preprared remarks.

In Toms River, we have no tolerance for anti-Semitic attacks. We will not accept this reprehensible behavior.  This action is being rightfully condemned and thoroughly investigated.  As good neighbors we need to be ever vigilant and report suspicious activity in neighborhoods, schools and at work. Please call the Toms River Police Department if you have any leads.  It is up to all of us to make Toms River a welcoming place to live, work and raise a family.”

Investigators are now trying to determine if it was left by "ignorant teenagers," or someone with an anti-Semitic agenda. Under certain conditions, incidents involving bias can be elevated into criminal status, involving prosecution and punishments.

In either case, police said, the source will be charged within the limits of the law.

Police also urge anyone, living in Toms River or elsewhere, to call them directly upon spotting any property defaced with hate comments.