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For Release: Wednesday, January 31, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-January

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 2017, the 301 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, 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:

Hit and Run and Some Good Ol' Police Work - Queens County

On Jan. 11, Major Scott Florence's unmarked patrol vehicle was involved in a hit and run motor vehicle accident while parked in Queens. By the time the damage was discovered, it was too late to find any suspected vehicles or eyewitnesses in the area. ECOs Josh Jarecki and Matt Thibodeau were assigned with the task of trying to identify the culprit. ECOs Jarecki collected hours of surveillance footage shot from nearby businesses. ECOs analyzed it multiple times in fast forward, reverse, slow motion, and from all different angles. ECOs identified the truck that had struck the patrol vehicle and were able to get a name and address for the company. The owner of the company confirmed who the driver was that day, and the GPS route for that day's deliveries put it at the scene. Lt. Eric Dowling used the information collected to determine that the driver's New York State driver's license was also suspended. The ECOs interviewed the subject and issued him tickets for leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident without reporting and aggravated unlicensed operation, both returnable to the Queens County Court in April.

Damaged Patrol Vehical
The damaged patrol vehicle in Queens

Squirrel Shooting Leads to Charges - Tioga County
On Jan. 12, ECO Brent Wilson responded to a call from Tioga County Dispatch regarding a complaint alleging a subject had discharged a firearm within 500 feet of a neighbor's residence. Tioga County Sheriff's Deputies arrived first and interviewed the subject, obtaining only denials. ECO Wilson arrived and obtained permission to check the subject's yard. Some gray fur caught his eye, and that lead to two dead squirrels on the ground about 15 feet from the house. Their wounds were consistent with what looked like a .22 caliber rifle round. Confronted with the dead squirrels, the man admitted to shooting them. ECO Wilson determined that the subject was approximately 225 feet from his neighbor's house when he shot the squirrels. The subject was issued tickets for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling and unlawfully taking small game.

ECO Wilson holding 2 dead squirrels
ECO Wilson with the dead squirrels

Overfill Leads to Spill - Westchester County
On Jan. 16, ECO Dustin Dainack was notified that there was a fuel spill at the town offices in Lewisboro due to a ruptured valve on a delivery truck. The flow from the fuel oil was close to entering a storm drain system that feeds into NYC Cross River Reservoir. ECOs Dainack and Aaron Bonilla arrived on scene and quickly assessed the situation. The spill was released from the containment trough that runs along the top of the tanker, which is designed to catch overflow/spilled material during fuel loading. The trough has a drain at the rear of the truck that had cracked, and only the fuel oil contained in the trough was released to the ground. An estimated 40-50 gallons was captured and prevented from flowing into the sewer system by the Lewisboro Fire Department with no impact to the reservoir or drinking water. An environmental cleanup contractor was contacted to conduct the cleanup efforts. ECO Dainack interviewed representatives from the oil delivery company and inspected the tanker truck, determining that the spill was avoidable and caused by the company overfilling the tank as well as a lack of maintenance trailer. ECO Dainack ultimately issued a summons to the company for depositing noisome and unwholesome substances onto a highway.

An Escape from School - Herkimer County
On Jan. 16, ECO Jeff Hull received a call that a deer had fallen down an escape hatch at the Poland Central School. Upon his arrival at the school, he met with assistant facility director Gordon Miller. The buck was laying down at the base of the hatch approximately 10 feet below ground level, but appeared to have a minor injury to its leg. ECO Hull devised a plan and requested some plywood and milk crates from the cafeteria. ECO Hull and Miller climbed into the well with the deer and built up a platform while several school staff cordoned off the deer in the corner. ECO Hull and Miller removed themselves from the well, and after several attempts, the deer was able to jump onto the platform and clear the concrete walls, freeing itself and running off with no apparent injury.

deer stuck in a well
The deer stuck in the well.
deer stuck in a well standing on a makeshift platform
The deer on the makeshift platform, just
before jumping out.

Late Hunting for Geese - Suffolk County
On Jan. 17, ECO Tim Fay responded to a call of waterfowl hunters shooting toward a house in Yaphank. ECO Fay arrived at 5:03 p.m. and spoke with the complainant. Just then, he heard another shot ring out from behind the house. To get to where the hunters were set up, ECO Fay had to drive around the river and travel through the marsh, so ECO Landon Simmons was contacted for assistance. While ECO Fay was working his way through the woods to locate the hunters, more shots were fired, now well beyond sunset. ECO Fay finally made contact with the hunters a few minutes later. "Why are you still hunting almost a half hour after sunset?" he asked. The young waterfowl hunters stated they thought they could hunt Canada Geese until a half hour past sunset, which is illegal. The ECOs issued tickets for discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling, hunting after closed hours, and failure to sign duck stamps.

A "Well" Deserved Ticket - Orange County
On Jan. 18, ECOs Adam Johnson and Jon Walraven were patrolling Orange County when they came across an unknown substance spilling into the street. The ECO's immediately stopped and discovered that a local contractor was drilling a well at a residence and the substance in the street was slurry spewing from their operation. The slurry was a mixture of water, dirt, and a cleaning solution that the contractors allowed to run down a hill and spill into the street unimpeded. The contractors were issued a ticket for depositing noisome and unwholesome substances onto a highway, a misdemeanor, and were instructed to clean up the mess. The summons is returnable to the Town of Monroe Court in March.

brown muddy slurry from a well drilling operation flowing onto a nearby roadway
Slurry from a well drilling operation flowing onto the road

Blood Clams for Sale - Queens County
On Jan. 19, ECO Matt Thibodeau was informed by ECO Waldemar Auguscinski that blood clams were being illegally sold at a fish market in Flushing, Queens. ECO Thibodeau arrived at the market and found the blood clams being offered for sale at $19.99 per pound. Blood clams are illegal to sell and possess because they are cultivated from uncertified waters outside of New York State and are a public health concern, as they have been found to contain Hepatitis A and dangerous bacteria. The clams were photographed, seized and weighed. There were a total of 9.19 pounds of clams seized with a total commercial value of $183.51. The market was issued a summons returnable to Queens County Court for the possession of shellfish taken from uncertified waters. The clams were seized and destroyed.

Blood clams being offered for sale illegally
Blood clams offered for sale illegally

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