Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, October 3, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-September

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 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 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:

ECO's Assist with Flooding Evacuations - Chemung County
Region 8 ECOs staged personnel and equipment in the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier areas in preparation for possible flooding due to severe rainfall from Hurricane Florence. At approximately 1:45 a.m. on Sept. 18, ECO Travis McNamara was contacted by Chemung County dispatch requesting ECOs to help evacuate residents stranded due to flooding. ECOs McNamara, John Lifrieri, and Lt. Matt Lochner responded to the staging point at the Wellsburg Fire Department where they coordinated with first responders from the Wellsburg Fire, West Elmira Fire Department, and Chemung Fire Department. The ECOs assisted personnel throughout the night in evacuating residents and conducting welfare checks, including visiting a local animal kennel housing an estimated 20 cats and dogs.

Flooded area with ECOs and Fire Department
ECOs and Fire Department personnel checking on
flooded residents

Illegal Sewage Dumping - Kings County
On Sept. 18, ECO Ryan Grogan received a complaint regarding an illegal septic system in the Gravesend area of Brooklyn. ECO Grogan and DEC staffer Edward Rossan investigated the site and located the septic tank, which was covered with a wooden lid. Further investigation uncovered evidence that the sewage was being pumped from the site into the parking lot of an adjacent store. ECO Grogan and Rossan followed the electrical cord from the sump pump onto the adjacent property. Speaking to the resident, ECO Grogan discovered that the owner of the property had been utilizing the pump for years. The property owner was issued a Notice of Violation for the illegal disposal of solid waste, allowing the opportunity to settle the case with DEC administratively. If the property owner fails to resolve the issue, the case will be handled in Kings County Criminal Court.

Homemade septic tank
Illegal septic tank

Right Place at the Right Time - Ontario County
On Sept. 19, a citizen approached ECO Keith Levanway and park security officer Matt McDonald in the parking lot of Boughton Park in East Bloomfield looking for assistance with a dog having difficulty breathing up a narrow trail. The officers ran to the dog's aid and ECO Levanway recognized the condition as mega-esophagus from his own experience with a family pet. The officer held the dog in a position that allowed it to breath while the owner brought a vehicle down the park's trail to transport the dog for veterinary care. The dog is expected to make a full recovery.

ECO helping distressed dog
ECO Levanway rendering assistance to distressed pet

Caught Snagging - Niagara County
On Sept. 19, ECOs George Scheer and Shea Mathis were on boat patrol in the Lower Niagara River when they were approached by a group of fishermen in another boat. The anglers reported an individual in a red shirt blatantly snagging fish from shore about a mile upriver along the Gorge Trail in Niagara Falls. From their patrol vessel, the ECOs could not navigate that far upriver due to strong currents and underwater obstructions. The ECOs piloted their vessel back to its mooring in Youngstown and drove to Niagara Falls, hoping to catch the subject before he left the scene. In Niagara Falls, the ECOs walked the trail and spotted the subject in the red shirt making repeated and exaggerated jerking motions of his fishing rod. Three other individuals were with him. The four were ticketed for attempting to take fish by snagging, possession of snatch hooks, and fishing without valid licenses.

Illegal fisihing hooks used for snagging
Illegal snatch hooks

Five Short Fluke - Suffolk County
On Sept. 20, ECOs Evan Laczi, Christopher DeRose, and K-9 Kramer were on boat patrol near Fire Island Inlet in Babylon when they encountered an individual eager to show the officers three bluefish he had caught. The officers boarded the vessel and discovered, in addition to the three legal bluefish, five undersized fluke in a storage bin in the stern of the vessel. The fisherman was issued summonses for possessing undersized fluke, as all five were well under the minimum size of 19 inches, and taking over the bag limit, as the daily limit is four fluke per person.

Undersized fish
Five short fluke

Bear Relocated from Newburgh - Orange County
On Sept. 22, ECO Jon Walraven received a call from the Newburgh Police Department regarding a large bear that had made its way into a heavily populated area in the city. The bear had climbed a tree and would not come down. ECO Walraven arrived on scene and found that the bear had run across the street and up a second tree. From its new perch, the bear had access to several rooftops. Officers from the Newburgh Police Department and the New York State Police were already on scene and had cordoned off the area around the bear. ECO Walraven contacted ECO Will Chomicki and DEC Wildlife Biologist Matt Merchant for assistance. The team arrived and successfully immobilized the bear. The officers safely transported the animal out of the city for relocation back into the wild.

ECOs and Police carrying immobilized bear
ECOs, State Police, and Newburgh Police remove
tranquilized bear

Youth Goose Hunt - Oneida and Madison Counties
On the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23, ECO Steve Lakeman helped put on the eighth annual youth goose hunt for Oneida and Madison counties at the Cassety Hollow Rod and Gun Club in Oriskany Falls. ECOs Ricardo Grisolini, Josh Jarecki and Zachary Kochanowski also aided in the hunt, which is focused on taking youths ages 12 to 15 to hunt geese and waterfowl. Along with mentors from the club, the ECOs educated 13 youth hunters, many of whom were in the field hunting geese for the first time. While on the hunt, the youth hunters learned how to properly set up decoys to mimic natural flocks of geese, how to call in geese, and how to properly use a goose call. The youth hunters also learned about the importance of hunter safety while in large groups. In total, the group harvested five Canada geese.

Kids learning how to use goose decoys
Youth hunters setting up goose decoys

Bear Case Solved - Clinton County
On Sept. 24, DEC's Dispatch Center received a tip from a concerned citizen regarding an individual that had shot multiple bears during the early bear hunting season. The caller reported that a sow and her two cubs were killed on Sept. 22. The case was assigned to ECO Chris Lagree, who determined that the illegal bears were taken less than a mile from his own residence. ECO Lagree interviewed the suspect at his home in Plattsburgh, and the suspect admitted to taking the sow and cubs in addition to another bear. The hunter also admitted to having shot the bears over a bait pile. The bears were seized from an adjacent garage. The hunter was charged with three counts of taking over the limit for bear, three counts of illegally taking bear, failing to tag bears as required, and taking bear over a pre-established bait pile. The following day, ECO Matt LaCroix and K-9 Diesel assisted ECO Lagree with locating the location where the bears were shot and securing physical evidence from the scene. The charges are returnable to the Town of Saranac Court in October.

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