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For Release: Wednesday, August 14, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late July to Early August

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

In 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, 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 DEC 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:

Fuel Oil Folly - Ontario County
On July 20, Ontario County 911 received a complaint about a truck spilling oil on County Rt. 7 in the town of Manchester. Additional calls reported oil on the road at other locations, as well. Fire departments were dispatched to close the road and spread speedy dry to contain the oil. New York State Police (NYSP) Trooper Robert Chapman and ECO Keith Levanway followed the stains on the road and, with a tip from a caller, were led to a home in Phelps. The resident there told them he had removed an old fuel oil tank during renovations to the home and that the tank sat outside for a few years until that day when he and a friend loaded it into a trailer. The friend drove away with the tank leaking and oil dumping onto the road. Realizing this and not wanting to take the leaking tank directly to his original destination, he drove around contaminating the roads and creating the hazardous situation. On Aug. 3, the investigation concluded with both men being charged with multiple offenses. The driver of the vehicle was charged with Reckless Endangerment 2nd degree by NYSP, and six environmental offenses by ECO Levanway. The homeowner was charged with three environmental offenses. The cases will be heard in Manchester and Phelps town courts.

Collaborative Investigation Leads to Illegal Dumping Charges - Putnam County
On July 29, ECO Kevin Wamsley received a call from the Putnam County Sheriff's Department about a large pile of garbage dumped on county property. A Deputy located documents in the trash, including receipts and a name. The next day the officers located the individual named on the paperwork. After extensive interviews, the officers were able to get a name for a contractor who may have dumped the garbage. The contractor was contacted and directed to meet the officers at dump location. When the subject arrived at the site, he admitted to dumping the garbage and was directed to clean it up. The subject was issued a town code violation for littering by the Deputy and a ticket for unlawful disposal of solid waste by ECO Wamsley, returnable to the Town of Southeast Court.

ECO vehicle near the dump site where dozens of bags of garbage and debris are strewn about.
Illegally dumped garbage

Multiagency Fisheries Enforcement - Suffolk County
From July 29 through Aug. 2, ECOs Brian Farrish, Jeremy Eastwood, Jordan Doroski, Sean Rockefeller, Christopher Macropoulos, and Robert McCabe joined officers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Coast Guard, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for an enforcement operation in Block Island Sound. Rhode Island organized the detail due to increasing complaints from fishermen that striped bass were being taken illegally and that commercial fishermen were coming from other states and fishing in Rhode Island waters without the appropriate license. More than a dozen fishermen from New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts were ticketed for taking striped bass, dumping of evidence, failing to possess proper licenses, failing to tag commercial striped bass, and operating an illegal charter. Officers will continue to monitor the activity to ensure compliance.

Headed Back to Summer Camp - Warren County
On Aug. 2, Tech. Sgt. Taryn Tomasik spoke to approximately 60 campers at the annual career day at the DEC Environmental Education Camp at Pack Forest in Warrensburg. The campers, ages 14 to 17, and their counselors learned about a career as an Environmental Conservation Police Officer, academy training, and the role of ECOs in enforcing New York's laws. ECO Tomasik enjoys returning to career days at DEC camps each summer and speaking with the campers, as she served as a camp counselor at Camps DeBruce and Rushford prior to becoming an ECO. If you know someone interested in becoming an ECO or a Forest Ranger, visit the recent announcement from DEC and the New York State Department of Civil Service on the upcoming exams.

ECO Tomasik poses for a group picture with the kids from camp at Pack Forest
Tech. Sgt. Tomasik with campers at Pack Forest

Mixed Bag - Ulster County
On Aug. 2, ECO Jeannette Bastedo was on foot patrol at Berean Park in the town of Lloyd when she saw a man and woman fishing. As she approached the couple, she noticed movement in their grocery bag. ECO Bastedo thought she would find a live fish flopping around in the bag, but instead she discovered a live Painted Turtle, a protected species. The couple claimed they captured the turtle as a pet for their son. Inside the bag, an undersized largemouth bass was mixed in with several legal sunfish. Neither individual could produce a valid freshwater fishing license. ECO Bastedo issued tickets to the pair for illegal possession of protected wildlife, taking undersized fish, and for fishing without a freshwater fishing license, all returnable to the Town of Lloyd Court. Once the turtle was free from the bag, it quickly returned to the water and swam off.

Struggling Eagle Makes a Quick Comeback - Wayne County
On Aug. 3, ECOs Todd Smith and Tony Drahms responded to a complaint of an eagle struggling in Lake Ontario near Port Bay in Wolcott. The ECOs performed a quick assessment of the eagle's health and determined that although it was wet and exhausted from its time in the water, the eagle appeared to be healthy. The ECOs placed the eagle in the sun to help speed up the feather-drying process and it soon flew off to a lofty tree-top. The complainant reported later that the eagle spent several hours drying its feathers before flying off.

ECO stands with a large eagle in his hands as it spreads its wings to dry in the sun.
ECO Drahms moves the eagle into the sun to help dry its feathers

Out-of-Season Geese - Chautauqua County
On Aug. 6, ECO Darci Dougherty received a complaint in the town of Carroll that the caller's neighbor had shot two Canada geese the morning before. The complainant said that she was watching the geese fly over her house when she suddenly heard gunshots and watched as her neighbors placed two geese into a bucket. ECOs Dougherty and Chris Freeman arrived at the suspect's house and found a bucket containing carcasses as described by the caller. The goose breast meat had already been eaten. The officers charged the shooter with taking Canada geese out of season and unlawfully possessing protected wildlife.

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