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For Release: Wednesday, December 20, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early to Mid-December

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

No License, No Tags, Big Problems - Ulster County
On Dec. 3, ECOs Josh Sulkey and Jason Smith responded to a complaint of shots fired after legal hunting hours near Peak Road in Marbletown. On scene, they found a fresh gut pile, blood trail, and evidence that a deer had been loaded into a vehicle. The caller gave a description of the vehicle and the ECOs found it in a nearby driveway with fresh blood on the trunk. The occupants of the vehicle were not there, but the registered owner was and he showed the ECOs the contents of the trunk, which contained a recently killed and untagged doe. The following day, ECO Sulkey received a call from an individual who told him that he was involved in the illegal activity. The subject was ultimately charged with hunting without a valid license, hunting big game after hours, illegally taking wildlife, and taking a doe without a permit, returnable to the Town of Marbletown Court.

Illegally taken doe in the trunk of a car
Illegally taken doe in the trunk of a car

Bad Connection - Westchester County
On Dec. 7, ECO Dustin Dainack investigated a car wash in New Castle suspected of having its floor drains connected to the stormwater system, which ultimately discharged into the environment. It is illegal for a business to discharge its effluent into ground or surface waters without a permit. ECO Dainack followed the pipes from the carwash directly to a stormwater runoff system. ECO Dainack spoke with the owner of the building, who recognized the illegal discharge and was already working with the town of New Castle and an independent water engineer to fix the problem. The officer issued one summons to the corporation for discharging without a state pollutant discharge elimination permit.

Patched blacktop showing the path of illegal drain pipes
Patched blacktop showing the path
of illegal drain pipes

Loaded-Rifle Riding is a Recipe for Disaster -- Franklin and Clinton Counties
On Dec. 8, ECO Kevin Riggs received a complaint that non-resident Vermont hunters were hunting deer over bait in the town of Constable. ECO Riggs located a hunter in a tree stand over several piles of corn. The subject was interviewed and was not carrying his license or tags. The ECO and the subject then went to the hunter's camper nearby, and while ECO Riggs was reviewing the hunter's license, another hunter returned to the camper on an ATV carrying a muzzleloader. Upon inspection of the firearm, it was determined to still be loaded. Three charges were written to the Town of Constable Court for hunting deer over bait, failure to carry license and tags while hunting, and possession of a loaded firearm on a motor vehicle.

Also on Dec. 8 in Clinton County, ECO Spencer Noyes was patrolling Rock Road in Altona when he noticed two pickup trucks parked on the side of the road with their tailgates down and ATV ramps set up. At dusk, ECO Noyes saw an ATV coming down the road and noticed the rider had a muzzleloader in the front gun rack. When asked if the gun was unloaded, the rider stated "Um, kinda, maybe?" The gun was loaded. About five minutes later, Noyes saw another ATV coming at him, this time with two riders both holding muzzleloaders across their laps. When asked if the weapons were unloaded, one of the riders said, "They can be, if you want them to be right now." Both of these firearms were found to be loaded, as well. All three of the riders were issued tickets for possessing a loaded firearm on a motor vehicle. The tickets are returnable to Town of Altona Court in January.

Loaded muzzleloader on an ATV
Loaded muzzleloader on an ATV

Illegal Deer Leads to Several Arrests - Cayuga County
On Dec. 8, ECO Mark Colesante responded to a complaint of subjects hunting from the road in the town of Brutus. When the officer arrived, he found the complainant keeping the alleged offenders at the scene. ECO Colesante found a loaded .22-caliber rifle and a three-year-old child in the back of the minivan operated by two suspects. According to the complainant, the pair had just shot a doe from the road with a .20 gauge, single-shot shotgun. The deer had been dragged to the edge of the field and tagged, but with the wrong tag. Assisted by ECO Scott Angotti, the two hunters provided written statements, which were later determined to be false. Upon obtaining criminal histories for the pair, one of the hunters was found to be a convicted felon. The two men were taken into custody and charged with making false statements. The convicted felon was charged with criminal possession of a weapon 4th degree. The hunters were also charged with taking a doe deer without a permit, shooting from a public highway, possession of a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, taking an illegal deer, and taking wildlife from a public highway. Both subjects were processed at the New York State Police Barracks in Auburn, and arraigned at the Town of Brutus Court, where one subject was released on his own recognizance and the other was remanded to the Cayuga County Jail in lieu of $500 bail.

Right Place, Wrong Time - Broome County
On Dec. 9, ECOs Andy McCormick and Anthony Rigoli and Lt. Ric Warner conducted a deer decoy detail in response to complaints of active road-hunting in the town of Colesville. At approximately 4:20 p.m., a slowly moving pickup truck passed ECO McCormick's location. However, the truck turned down a road away from the decoy's location. About 20 seconds after the truck passed, a gunshot was heard from the truck's direction of travel. Realizing a real deer may have been shot, the three ECOs rushed to the scene and found the truck parked in the middle of the road with two individuals inside. Much to the officers' surprise, the driver was recognized as having been arrested for shooting the decoy from a vehicle several years prior less than a mile away. The pickup driver admitted to shooting at a deer from the window of his truck. After a brief search, officers found the dead doe. A total of six tickets were issued, including possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, and illegal taking of a deer. The charges are pending in the Town of Colesville Court.

9th Annual "Shop with a Cop" Program - Lewis County
On Dec. 9, ECO Andrew Kostuk participated in Lewis County's 9th Annual "Shop with a Cop" program, which connects underprivileged youth with first responders for a prepaid shopping spree at Walmart and holiday fun for the whole family. More than 30 kids gathered at the Lewis County Sheriff's station to be paired with a first responder and join in a parade of lights and sirens all the way to Walmart. After choosing gifts for themselves, their families, and the local giving tree, the kids headed to the Lowville Fire Station for a pizza party. A short video of the event is posted to YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWbcwzEhDWI

ECO Kostuk with his holiday shopper
ECO Kostuk with his holiday shopper

"Shop with a Cop" - Steuben County
On Dec. 9, Lt. Matt Lochner and ECO Matt Baker participated in the 3rd Annual Steuben County "Shop with a Cop" event coordinated by the Steuben County Sheriff's Department. The officers joined forces with members of the SCSD, New York State Police, and the Bath Police Department to sponsor children from a local shelter. The officers took the kids shopping at the Bath Village Kmart for needed family items and Christmas gifts that they may otherwise would've gone without. The police officers and children returned to the Steuben Sheriff's Department to enjoy a hearty lunch and wrap the presents. This great event was made possible in part by generous donations from participating police benevolent associations, the New York State Conservation Officers Association, Bath Village Kmart, and citizens in and around the village of Bath.

ECO Matt Baker with Santa Claus
ECO Matt Baker with Santa Claus

Another Buck Down -- Chenango County
On Dec. 13, ECO Kristina Markey responded to a complaint in the town of Sherburne concerning a Facebook post in which an individual bragged about taking two bucks during the regular deer season. The Facebook user posted photos of himself with two 8-point bucks he claimed to have shot within two days. ECO Markey went to the poster's residence and interviewed his father, who told ECO Markey his son had borrowed a buck tag from a friend to tag the second buck. ECO Markey then interviewed the friend, who admitted to giving his tag to the young man in question. He claimed to not know it is illegal to share a regular season tag and figured he would give it away since he hadn't had much luck hunting. ECO Markey then returned to the Facebook poster's house for another interview. The subject had the antlers from the first deer professionally mounted and the head of the second buck set aside, the meat already processed. The Facebook poster admitted to taking the two deer and was issued tickets for taking an illegal deer and possessing the tags of another. The remains of the second buck were seized as evidence. The friend was also ticketed for lending his hunting tag to another, returnable to the Town of Sherburne Court.

Oil Spill and Truck Fire - Suffolk County
On the morning of Dec. 16, ECO Kyle Bevis was on patrol in Suffolk County when a call came across the radio reporting a three-car motor vehicle accident in Lake Grove. An oil tanker truck was involved in the accident and had rolled over, striking a telephone pole and catching on fire. When ECO Bevis arrived on scene, firefighters were finishing up putting out the truck fire. No one was injured in the accident and ensuing fire, but the oil truck had been carrying approximately 3,900 gallons of fuel oil, some of which was released into a nearby storm drain. The DEC Spills Response unit responded to the location and assessed the scene, checking nearby basins for contamination from the oil that entered the storm drain. An environmental cleanup crew arrived and began remediating the affected area. The cleanup continued for several days but did not ultimately affect surface or ground water.

The aftermath of the accident
The aftermath of the accident

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