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For Release: Wednesday, February 6, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late January

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:

Lone Wolf - Kings County
On Jan. 16, ECO Ryan Grogan found a Craigslist post advertising a gray timber wolf pelt rug for sale in Kings County. The officer contacted the seller, who agreed to sell the pelt to anyone other than U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers. Officer Grogan ensured the seller that he was not a federal officer and a date was set to purchase the rug. On Jan. 18, the ECO dressed in plainclothes to make the purchase. While making the sale, the seller described how he and his friend shot the wolf in Alaska the previous year. After agreeing to purchase the rug for $950, Grogan informed the seller he was an ECO and that by selling an item made from an endangered species he was committing a crime under the state Environmental Conservation Law. ECOs Max Woyton and Waldemar Auguscinski assisted in seizing the illegal rug and the officers issued the subject a notice of violation (NOV).

Two ECOs standing with wolf pelt on floor between them
ECOs Grogan and Dickson with gray wolf pelt

Clams on the Street - New York County
On Jan. 18, ECOs Daniel Plows and Brendan Dickson received a call from Manhattan-sector ECO Joshua Harvey regarding a repeat violator selling shellfish illegally in Chinatown. ECO Dickson quickly found the seller, who was pushing two, five-gallon buckets full of clams up a street. Dickson, dressed in plainclothes, waited for the woman to set up her sales operation. ECO Plows waited in uniform a few blocks away. When the subject began peddling the clams, ECO Dickson signaled for ECO Plows to approach. The seller is known to run when confronted, so ECOs Dickson and Plows approached from opposite sides. When the seller spotted ECO Plows, she turned and ran straight into ECO Dickson. A total of 22 pounds of illegal freshwater shellfish were seized. The woman was issued three tickets, including illegal sale of untagged shellfish, possession of shellfish from uncertified waters, and failure to have a shellfish shipping permit. The tickets are returnable to New York County Court.

Two ECOs standing with two buckets and shellfish on the floor between them
ECOs Plows and Dickson with seized shellfish

Tin Brook Breach - Orange County
On Jan. 18, ECO Will Chomicki was on patrol in the town of Montgomery when he noticed large piles of material in a yard bordering Tin Brook. A closer look revealed that a large hole was dug in the yard with a trench leading toward the stream. ECO Chomicki spoke with the homeowner and discovered the woman was trying to build a pond in her backyard. She had dug not one, but two, trenches to the stream in an attempt to fill the pond. Tin Brook is a class B trout stream, so ECO Chomicki scheduled a site visit on Jan. 25 with DEC habitat biologist Mike Fraatz to survey the damage and determine the best practices for clean up, for which the homeowner will be responsible. The officers issued a ticket for disturbing a protected stream, returnable to the Town of Montgomery Court.

Trees on landscape that has been dug up, partially filled with water
Trenches dug illegally to fill backyard pond

Illegal Fire Leads to Ticket - Westchester County
On Jan. 23, ECO Kevin Wamsley received a call from the town of Bedford Police Department about an individual burning doors and rugs close to a home in the hamlet of Katonah. ECO Wamsley responded to the scene and immediately located the fire. Painted doors, trim, rugs, and particle board were being burned within 15 feet of the home. After an interview with the homeowner, the officer determined the house was being "flipped" for profit and the items in the fire were remnants from the house. The owner had directed workers to burn the items in that specific area in an attempt to thaw the ground to allow digging by the electric company. The fire was immediately extinguished by the Katonah Fire Department and the officers issued a ticket for unlawful open burning of solid waste to the owner, returnable to the Town of Bedford Court.

Man standing near large burning fire with wood and other debri in it
Materials being burned illegally

ECOs Rescue Stranded Ice Fishermen - Jefferson County
On Jan. 30, ECOs Lt. Steven Bartoszewski and Bret Canary were positioned at New York State Police's Watertown barracks as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Winter Storm Jayden detail. Heavy bands of lake effect snow across central Jefferson County kept first responders busy with cars off the road and motor vehicle accidents. At 5:45 p.m., Jefferson County 911 called for assistance for two stranded fishermen in a truck on Chaumont Bay, Lake Ontario, off Three Mile Point. The ECOs responded on snowmobiles in 45 mph winds and whipping snow that limited visibility to under 100 feet. Members of the Chaumont Volunteer Fire Department made phone contact with the two men, obtained a GPS location and relayed it to ECOs on scene. The officers set out across the frozen bay guided only by the GPS pin location and located the vehicle 2.5 miles from the boat launch. The two men were in good condition and relieved to see the ECOs. When the storm descended on the lake, they had attempted to drive off but the truck's 4-wheel drivetrain wouldn't engage and they became stuck in a snowdrift. After an hour of trying to drive and with darkness falling, they called for help. The men hopped aboard the snowmobiles and were driven off the ice. They later retrieved their vehicle once the weather broke.

Dark picture of an SUV type vehicle stuck in the snow.
Vehicle stranded in Chaumont Bay on Lake Ontario

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