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For Release: Wednesday, August 29, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-August

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, 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:

Feeling Crabby - Queens County

While on patrol on August 10, ECOs Josh Jarecki and Joshua Harvey observed two subjects operating a seine net in Jamaica Bay and placing what appeared to be blue claw crabs into a bucket. The officers watched as one of the individuals hid the bucket in the bushes on shore. As the subjects headed back to their vehicle with the bucket, the ECOs approached and found that the five-gallon bucket was full of blue claw crabs. The ECOs counted and sorted the crabs, finding 109, with 96 being under the legal-size limit. The ECOs issued four summonses for possession of undersize blue claw crabs and failure to possess a crabbing permit, as the crabbers were in possession of more crabs than allowed by the recreational limit. The crabs were photographed and returned to the water.

ECO in front of a ECO SUV with a bag of confiscated blue crabs
ECO Jarecki with seized blue claw crabs

More Than Just a Spill - Kings County
On August 11, ECOs Ryan Grogan and Brendan Dickson received a complaint of an oil spill at an apartment building in Brooklyn. The ECOs were informed that approximately five gallons of heating oil had spilled during a routine fill up, but when the officers went to check on the situation to make sure that the spill had been cleaned up properly, they found 39, 55-gallon drums labeled with "Non-Hazardous Waste" sitting on the sidewalk. As it was clear that the spill had involved more than five gallons, the ECOs interviewed the superintendent of the building. After gaining access to the basement to inspect the tank itself, the officers noted several violations. The ECOs requested assistance from the DEC Spills Unit. The ECOs and Spills Unit determined that the tank had been leaking for a long time due to poor maintenance. The ECOs issued seven criminal summonses, as well as a Notice of Violation to the superintendent of the building for violations including failing to report multiple petroleum spills, failing to keep maintenance records, failing to label tanks, and failing to maintain equipment. The drums were transported and disposed of safely by a certified waste hauler and DEC Spills Unit will oversee the system's cleanup and repairs.

Drums of contaiminated waste on a sidewalk
Drums of petroleum contaminated waste waiting to be picked up

Feeling Clammy- Kings County
On August 12, ECOs Zach Kochanowski and Josh Jarecki patrolled the Gerritsen Beach area in Kings County during low tide for marine fishing and shellfish violations. From the Belt Parkway, the officers saw a large group of people near the water. ECOs Jarecki and Kochanowski walked out toward the beach and watched from the tall reeds as three groups of people were clamming on the beach. One by one, the ECOs gathered the individuals and their catch to see what had been taken. In total, the ECOs counted 699 illegally taken clams, which were then returned to the water. The ECOs issued six summonses for possession of shellfish taken from uncertified waters and two summonses for polluting the waters of the marine district. Shortly after, ECO Kochanowski received a call from Central Dispatch reporting two individuals digging for clams at Plumb Beach. ECOs Jarecki and Kochanowski responded and observed the individuals on the far eastern end of the beach. The officers began to walk down toward the individuals when they observed a second group of people catching blue claw crabs. ECO Jarecki stayed with that group while ECO Kochanowski approached the two individuals clamming. The clammers were in possession of 88 clams taken from uncertified waters. In addition, ECO Kochanowski found a fisherman in possession of 10 undersized scup. ECO Jarecki found that the subjects catching blue claw crabs were in possession of 46 undersized crabs. The ECOs issued 12 more summonses returnable to the Kings County Court for the various fishing and shellfishing violations.

ECO with illegally possessed clams and crabs on a shoreline
ECO with illegally possessed clams and crabs on a shoreline
overhead view of a pile of crabs and clams on a beach

ECOs Kochanowski and Jarecki with illegally possessed clams and crabs

Illegal Alligators - Sullivan County
On August 14, ECO Tom Koepf received a call from a local wildlife rehabilitator reporting that a woman in the town of Mamakating had contacted her as she wished to turn over two alligators that she and her son had been raising as pets. The rehabilitator met with the woman at her home and collected the two alligators, measuring approximately three to four feet in length. ECOs Koepf and Mary Grose patrolled to the residence and interviewed the woman about the alligators. The woman said that she had caught one while fishing in Florida two years ago, and that her son had purchased the other online from an unknown source. The mother and son wanted to give the alligators away, as they were getting too big and difficult to care for. The pair were issued tickets for illegal possession of live crocodilia, returnable to the town of Mamakating Court. The rehabilitator is currently searching for a good home for the animals, possibly a zoo or educational center.

Alligators Illegally Kept
Alligators illegally kept in Mamakating

Illegal Sale of Tiger Parts - Kings County
On Friday August 17, ECO Ryan Wing entered a small jewelry shop in Kings County wearing plain clothes and looking for illegal items for sale. ECO Wing spotted three pieces that appeared to be made of animal teeth. The store clerk stated that the pieces were tiger teeth and the asking price for the items was $330 apiece. ECO Wing contacted ECOs Zachary Kochanowki and Brendan Dickson, in uniform nearby. The uniformed ECOs entered the store and informed the store clerk that it is illegal to offer for sale endangered species or parts thereof. The items were photographed and seized, and a summons was issued for the illegal commercialization of wildlife.

Jewelry display with tiger teeth for sale
Jewelry made from tiger teeth for sale in Brooklyn

Good Fishing - Ulster and Sullivan Counties
On August 19, ECO Jeannette Bastedo participated in Walker Valley's Shawangunk Day. The celebration included a touch-a-truck event, fishing derby, auto show, food and craft vendors, music, bounce houses, and much more. For the touch-a-truck portion, dozens of young children climbed into the driver's seat of ECO Bastedo's patrol car eager to operate the emergency lights and sirens. A strong rainstorm moved through the area and sent most of the kids home, but a few eager young fishermen waited out the rain to participate in the fishing derby organized by two well-known local sportsmen, Bob Ewald and Bob Rueter. Every child that participated caught at least one fish utilizing old-fashioned bamboo cane poles.

On August 20, ECO Michael Hameline was checking fishermen at Dixie Lake in the town of Liberty when he met father and son from Brooklyn eager to show him their catch. The pair had caught a 25-inch-long chain pickerel weighing in at three pounds. After taking pictures and measurements, the fish was released back into the lake to hopefully be caught by another future angler. The pickerel was large enough to be entered in the Angler Achievement Award Program. The Angler Achievement program is a way for DEC to recognize anglers that have succeeded in catching a fish most people only dream about. The awards program records 43 different species of fish through multiple categories based on length or weight. One of the categories is the Catch and Release, which recognizes anglers that release their trophy fish to protect the resource so that others can have an opportunity to catch a fish of a lifetime.

Youth holding a bass posing with an ECO
People posing for a picture iwth a pickerel fish
Shawangunk Day bass and Dixie Lake pickerel

Capsized Boat - Hamilton County
On August 20, ECO Scott Pierce was patrolling the Sacandaga Lake when he noticed a small boat along the shoreline. ECO Pierce approached the vessel, a 14-foot-long pram powered by an electric motor and operated by an older gentleman. The operator stated that he was looking for Moffit's Beach State Campsite, which is on the opposite shore approximately one mile across the lake. ECO Pierce asked the man if he had a life vest on board. The subject did not, so ECO Pierce gave the man a spare life vest from his patrol boat. With the winds picking up, the man put it on and headed for the campground, telling ECO Pierce that he would return the life vest to the campground office when he was done with it. With the wind still increasing, ECO Pierce noticed a short time later that the pram was taking on water in the rear and the boat was beginning to stand up vertically in the water. ECO Pierce headed toward the sinking boat and as he approached, it completely capsized. The operator hung onto the side of the capsized boat but the motor was still running and the propeller was hitting his legs. At the same time, another passing boat arrived to assist, pulling the capsized boat away while ECO Pierce grabbed the man by his life vest and instructed him to hold onto the side of the patrol boat. The ECO pulled the man safely onto the patrol boat. With the pram's motor was still running, it caused the capsized boat to spin in circles in the lake. After a few attempts, the officer and the subject were able secure the boat and turn the motor off. With the operator safely aboard the patrol boat, the ECO towed the partially submerged boat to the campground. A potentially tragic incident was prevented, with the only loss being the small boat's anchor.

Small boat Capsized on Sacandaga lake
The small boat after capsizing on Sacandaga Lake

DEC Summer Camp Career Day - Warren County
Technical Sergeant Taryn Czora participated in the DEC Camp Pack Forest's annual "career day" in Warrensburg. During the career day, 60 campers ages 14-17 and their counselors learned about the varied duties of an ECO. In addition, Sgt. Czora discussed the requirements to become an ECO and life during the ECO police training academy, as well as highlights from her field work as an ECO in New York City. Campers rotated around career stations throughout the day, learning from DEC Fisheries, Education, Communications, and Lands and Forest staff. Sgt. Czora has a long history with DEC's summer camp program, having spent several seasons as a Camp Counselor at Camp DeBruce and Camp Rushford prior to becoming an ECO.

Group of campers posing for a picture at a camp
Sgt. Czora with campers at DEC's Pack Forest
summer camp "career day"
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