SOUTH ORANGE — A new bridge in the South Orange section of the South Mountain Reserve has been tagged with swastikas and other graffiti, just the latest Semitic incident in the state.

The Essex County Sheriff's Department said the graffiti was found around noon on Tuesday, and it is believed the work was done either overnight Monday, or in the early morning hours of Tuesday. The incident is being investigated by the Essex County Prosecutor's Office Bias Crimes Unit, in addition to the sheriff's department.

Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura said the writing on the wall "clearly supersedes mere mischievous behavior or graffiti," and said it "cannot be tolerated."

In an effort to combat future such incidents, Fontoura said, his department has increased the number of uniformed and plain clothed officers who patrol the area. Additional security cameras have also been installed.

The graffiti comes at a time when Jewish centers across the country are being threatened, and Fontoura said his office is working to help ensure the safety of the Jewish population in the county as well.

"We have contacted and reinforced our security measures with the many Jewish community groups where our Bomb Squad and K-9 Unit have already been deployed," he said.

Essex County Executive Director Joseph N. DiVencenzo Jr. called the incident, "discouraging and maddening," and said the county's parks department is working to quickly remove "the repulsive markings."

DiVencenzo said the graffiti was an affront in two ways — "Our diversity is our strength, and our open spaces are there for the enjoyment of everyone. We do not condone the defacing of public areas and we do not tolerate the hateful intent of this graffiti."

Fontoura said the Crimestoppers program has issued a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case. Information can be submitted through the Crime Stoppers website or by calling 973-621-4111.

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