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Swastikas Found Etched Into Sign At Midland Park Mosque

MIDLAND PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Messages of hate were left at a Mosque in Midland Park, New Jersey, and police are searching for those responsible.

As CBS2's Christine Sloan reported, 10-inch swastikas were carved into a wooden sign at the entrance of the Elzahra Islamic Center.

The imam's son said it doesn't make sense.

"It was a surprise because it's not really relevant for us. That's why it's just kind of random," said Hasan Charaf, with the Elzahra Islamic Center. "I am sure it's one foolish individual, it's not what the whole town thinks."

Swastikas Found Etched Into Sign At Midland Park Mosque

Part of the sign at the Islamic center is now covered up because the vandals left behind other offensive etchings of a sexual nature.

"Anytime that we have anything -- an insignia such as a swastika -- it's considered a hate crime and we handle it as a bias incident," said Midland Park Police Chief Michael Powderley.

The symbols of hate were discovered Memorial Day weekend when someone trashed field equipment at the high school, Sloan reported.

(Sloan: Do you think what happened at the high school -- I guess some mischief there -- could be related?) That's something we're looking into. We learned just today from the principal that there was an incident they believe occurred on the same date," said Powderley.

Some residents initially voiced concerns when the Mosque moved to the neighborhood -- worried they'd have to deal with traffic and noise. But police said so far there have been no complaints.

Charaf said the center plans on having neighbors over Friday for a community gathering.

"We want to get to know our neighbors more, we want to establish a better connection with them and show them we're friendly people," Charaf said.

Meanwhile, Imam Mohammad Charaf said the mosque has installed surveillance cameras and is stepping up security, WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported.

"We hope that this is just an isolated incident," Charaf said.

Police were searching for suspects late Tuesday, and all sides hoped it was all a bad teenage prank.

Crimes involving vandalism in New Jersey normally don't carry prison time. But under the state's bias statute -- currently under review -- it could lead to time behind bars.

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