The French artist who created a red-triangle warning sign of a Jewish man and placed it in Stamford Hill has apologised for the offensive stunt.

Franck Allais, a photographer, said the warning sign – which was reported to police as a hate crime – was in fact part of an artistic project and was not meant to cause offence.

Allais said it was meant as a comment on identity and that the sign in Stamford Hill, home to a large Orthodox population, was not intended to be anti-Semitic statement.

“It was a project about crossing the road, how everyone is different, everyone has an identity,” he said. “There is not only one sign in the street. I put more signs up in the street, but only this one got noticed. I am sorry for any offence caused.”

Speaking to Sky News, the artist said: “My main concern was making sure I put the signs in a safe place – I didn’t want to cause any accidents.

“I put the sign of the Jewish man in Stamford Hill – exactly where I took the original photo – along with several others on the same road.

“I put them there around two or three weeks ago. That is the only sign that has provoked any reaction – I’ve been really shaken by it.”

Jewish neighbourhood watch group Shomrim had reported it to the Metropolitan Police and Hackney Council on Tuesday, saying it had caused “alarm and distress to local people”.

The sign was placed just 200 yards from a synagogue on Clapton Common at a time when the Jewish community in the UK has experienced the highest levels of anti-Semitism in history, so it is easy to see how this sign could have been taken the wrong way.

Despite the apology, the PCC for Surrey, David Munro, said the artist’s work was “incredibly offensive”.

He said: “When this was brought to my attention, I was dismayed with the true lack of thought given by the artist for the distress this could cause to those of Jewish backgrounds.”

He added: “By responding to this, I hope to reassure the public that offensive material such as this will not be tolerated.”

Mr Allais, who says the three-year-project is not yet complete, is currently deciding whether to carry on with his artistic venture.