By Kristina Dougherty

By Kristina Dougherty and Cleve Bryan

BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP, NJ (CBS) — Schools in Barnegat Township, Ocean County were dismissed following a day long lockdown prompted by a search for an escaped prisoner.

Police say around 10:17 a.m. Wednesday, a stolen vehicle was found at a CVS drug store on West Bay Avenue in Barnegat.

Authorities believe the suspect behind the wheel is Arthur Buckel, an inmate who escaped from a prison in Winslow Township on Tuesday. Officials say that Buckel left the truck there.

All Barnegat Schools were put on lockdown, as a precaution.

With guns drawn and police dogs by their side, police scoured the woods and patrolled several neighborhoods looking for the escaped convict.

Agencies from the Ocean County Sheriffs Department, New Jersey Department of Corrections Fugitive Task Force, Ocean County Special Operations Group, Ocean County SWAT Team, New Jersey State Police, Ocean Township Police Department, and Stafford Township Police Department assisted in the search.

The search in Barnegat revolved around homes and included a sighting in one person’s yard.

“It’s certainly nerve-wracking,” said Barnegat resident Mark Bryson. “Especially in these environments these days.” Residents in Barnegat and surrounding towns were told to lock their homes and cars and shelter in place.

“It’s crazy…just nuts,” said Tom Thompson. “Never really seen anything like it. I’ve lived here my whole life and hopefully they catch the guy soon.”

Barnegat Mayor John Novak had a message for Buckel. “You will be apprehended,” he said. “The best thing you can do is peacefully and voluntarily surrender yourself to law enforcement. You will be apprehended. Make it easy for yourself.”

Wednesday’s search was complicated by weather. The rain made it more difficult for the dogs to track him. Also, they were not able to use helicopters to search from above. That truck at the CVS is believed, by authorities, to be the second vehicle stolen by Buckel.

They are looking into another vehicle on the Atlantic City Expressway.

The message to people in Barnegat is that if you don’t have somewhere to go, and you’re at home, lock the doors and stay inside for now.

On Thursday, all Barnegat Township schools will be open and will have police presence all day if Buckel is not taken into custody.

Stay with CBSPhilly.com for more details on this developing story. 

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