TOMS RIVER — Police said they have removed a park picnic table found with an anti-semitic message scratched into it.

Police spokesman Ralph Stoccoas said they read about the message that read "Go back to Lakewood, Jew" on the Lakewood Scoop news website and investigated the incident as a bias crime.

"We are attempting to determine if this is related to an incident at the same park earlier this month," Stocco wrote in an email. Another anti-semitic message was found in the same park at the beginning of March.

Stocco said that those responsible would face higher penalties because of the religious nature of the message. Ocean County Prosecutor's Office spokesman Al Della Fave said that when an arrest is made his office will prosecute to the highest extent of the law.

Tensions between the Jewish community in Lakewood and Toms River the past several months after the Toms River town council recently adoptedan ordinance creating a five-year “cease-and-desist” zone to bar door-to-door solicitations after residents said a no-knock registry wasn’t working. 

Mayor Thomas Kelaher came under fire for his comments in an interview with Bloomberg Business. The three-term mayor said residents testified before the Council they "felt they were subjected to an invasion" by persistent real estate sellers seeking to buy homes in the North Dover section of the Township. Kelaher said he used the word in an interview in order to explain how residents felt.

According to the Scoop, the graffiti was discovered by a Jewish couple walking in the park off Whitesville Road. Anyone with information about the incident should contact Toms River Police at 732-349-0150.

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