By Peter Elacqua
HOWELL – As Howell police officers continued to pursue the individuals who spray painted swastikas at Echo Lake Park late last month, a representative of the Anti-Defamation League condemned the action.
Joshua Cohen, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “We are deeply concerned over anti-Semitic vandalism that has plagued the communities of Lakewood and Howell. The appearance of swastikas and anti-Semitic messages on public property are searing and serve as another sobering reminder that New Jersey is not immune to anti-Jewish sentiments.
“These despicable acts of vandalism represent an attack on the entire community. We urge members of the community to speak out and make clear that these acts of hate are unacceptable and have no place in our communities. We commend the Lakewood and Howell police departments for addressing these incidents with the utmost seriousness and speed,” Cohen said.
Cohen’s mention of neighboring Lakewood was in reference to recent anti-Semitic incidents that were reported in that community.
Howell Mayor William Gotto said he could not comment on the matter while the investigation into the Echo Lake Park vandalism was in progress.
In a press release issued Aug. 29, Howell police said they learned of the vandalism at Echo Lake Park, Maxim-Southard Road, that day when an individual reported that swastikas – recognized as a symbol of Nazi Germany – had been spray painted at the park.
Officers assigned to the Howell Police Department Detective Bureau responded to the park and found nine swastikas spray painted in white on the horseshoe pit backboards and on benches.
Police said it appeared the vandalism had occurred sometime during the week prior to its discovery. Howell Department of Public Works employees painted over the vandalized areas on the day the incident was reported.
As of Sept. 2, no arrests had been reported by police and Detective Sgt. Christian Antunez said there were no suspects.