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For Release: Wednesday, May 1, 2019

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-April

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:

ECOs Bust Boat Dumper - Niagara County
On March 26, DEC ECOs received a report of a 25-foot-long boat dumped on 15th Street in the city of Niagara Falls. The boat's motor had been removed and the identifying information, including the hull identification number (HIN) and the state registration numbers, had been defaced. The name of the boat, "Road Rage," remained on each side of the boat. A story of the dumping case appeared in the Niagara Gazette on March 30, and led to DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit Investigator Bob Peinkofer receiving an anonymous tip.

Peinkofer conducted an investigation and secured video footage from security cameras at a company in the town of Niagara where a suspect had been identified. Workers at the company reported that employee David Smouse, 53, of Niagara Falls, had been seen with the boat at the facility.

Working with the City of Niagara Falls Police Department and the Niagara County District Attorney's Office, Peinkofer charged Smouse with forgery of a vehicle identification number and possession of a forged instrument in the second degree, both felonies, and unlawful disposal of solid waste in excess of 10 cubic yards, an Environmental Conservation Law misdemeanor. Niagara Falls Police also charged Smouse with a violation of a city ordinance that prohibits unlawful dumping. On April 16, Smouse surrendered himself to the authorities and was arraigned in the Town of Niagara and City of Niagara Falls Courts. The subject was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled to appear in the City of Niagara Falls and the Town of Niagara to face the charges.

Large boat named Road Rage on the side of a residential street.
Boat dumped in City of Niagara Falls;
Photo Credit: Mark Scheer/staff photographer Niagara Gazette

Out-of-Season and Over Bait - Oneida County
On April 16, ECO Chrisman Starczek received a tip about an individual in Marcy baiting and hunting turkeys before the season. ECO Starczek located the area and found a ground blind and remnants of a corn pile. The ECO also found turkey feathers and a crossbow bolt stuck in the ground. The officer returned the following evening and watched as an individual arrived on a UTV and deposited a bucket of corn in front of the blind. On April 20, the first day of the youth turkey hunt, ECO Robert Howe and Lt. Aaron Markey went back to check for activity at the site. ECO Howe observed two people enter the blind and later shoot a turkey. ECO Howe and Lt. Markey, joined by ECO Starczek, went to the suspect's residence where the officers found the turkey untagged and in the back of the UTV. The suspect admitted to baiting the turkeys to make hunting easier for his daughter, but it turned out his daughter is 16 and not eligible to hunt during the youth weekend, which is for youth 12 to 15 years of age. After further questioning, the man also admitted to illegally taking a turkey with a crossbow earlier in the week. Both the illegal hunter and his daughter were issued several tickets, including illegally taking turkeys out of season and illegally taking turkeys over bait.

Bass Busters - Nassau County
On April 17, ECOs Robert Kaufherr and Zachary Prentice received a tip that a group of anglers were keeping striped bass at Tappen Beach. When the officers arrived, they noticed three anglers on the beach digging fish out of the sand and placing the fish into large black garbage bags. As the anglers got back to their car, the ECOs approached them and the group dropped the bags into nearby bushes. In the bags, the officers found 22 undersized striped bass ranging from 18 to 26 inches in length. The three anglers were ticketed for possessing undersized and over-the-limit striped bass, returnable to Nassau First District Court.

Two ECOs standing in front of the side of their vehicle with rows of fish lined up on the ground
ECO's Kaufherr and Prentice with the seized striped bass

Sucker Poaching - Tompkins County
On April 19, ECO Jeff Krueger responded to a midnight call at the Cayuga Inlet fish ladder in the town of Ithaca. State Troopers Malysa and Theurkauf had responded to a trespassing complaint and found a subject with a large quantity of suckers, a native fish that spawns in shallow rivers and streams in the early spring. Troopers immediately contacted ECO Krueger to respond due to violations of state Environmental Conservation Law. The man, in possession of a crossbow pistol and a homemade pickaxe, said he used the crossbow to take two fish and the pickaxe to take 42 fish. He attempted to justify his actions by saying he was helping DEC by removing the suckers because the suckers eat trout eggs. ECO Kruger educated the subject on restrictions against taking fish at the fish ladder, the Finger Lakes tributary fishing regulations, and New York's angling requirements. ECO Krueger issued two summonses, one for fishing at the fish ladder and one for taking fish by means other than angling. Both charges are returnable to the Town of Ithaca Court and punishable by fines of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail per charge. The crossbow and pickaxe were seized as evidence.

A State Trooper and an ECOs standing with confiscated poaching instruments.
Trooper Theurkauf and ECO Krueger with seized implements

Environmental Day at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge - Queens County
On April 20 at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Center, ECOs Matthew Thibodeau and Joshua Harvey assisted U.S. Park Police and U.S. Park Rangers with activities to help children and their families engage in exploring, learning, and protecting wildlife and the environment. During the event, New York City urban youth were able to explore the wildlife refuge, which is part of Gateway National Recreation Area administered by the National Park Service. The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge covers 9,000 acres of open bay, saltmarsh, mudflats, upland field, and woods and is one of the best places in New York City to observe migrating species.

ECOs and Jamaica Bay Wildlife staff standing with children
ECOs Thibodeau and Harvey and friends at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Center

Illegally Netting Fish in Troy - Rensselaer County
Shortly after midnight on the April 21, ECO Brian Canzeri responded to a call of people throwing a net into the Poestenkill Creek along 1st Street in the city of Troy. ECO Canzeri observed a man fishing from a bridge as two other subjects threw a large casting net into the creek, pulling up several herring. ECO Canzeri stopped the subjects from engaging in additional illegal activity and issued tickets to all three for "taking fish by means not specified" due to the illegal use of the net. All of the fish were returned alive to the creek and the net was seized as evidence.

Earth Day Celebration - Queens County
On April 25, ECOs Jeffrey Johnston and Joshua Jarecki and Lt. Doreen Lum participated in an Earth Day celebration at DEC's New York City regional office. Event attendees engaged with the officers to better understand how ECOs carry out their missions to protect the environment and people of the New York. Many children attended because it was also National Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. The children were fascinated by the display of a wide range of seized items, from mountain lions to the rattlers from rattlesnakes. Earth Day outreach provides a great opportunity for children and locals to meet an ECO and learn firsthand about how these officers perform their jobs through law enforcement, education, and public outreach.

ECO standing with a small child at an informational table with some animal pelts on the table
ECO Johnston with young environmentalist

Bass Poachers Hide Fish and Face Tickets - Ulster County
On April 26, ECO Jason Smith was on patrol at the Ashokan Reservoir when he observed three men fishing from a rowboat without wearing personal floatation devices (PFDs). ECO Smith walked the shoreline and observed all three catch and keep smallmouth bass. ECO Smith contacted ECO Lucas Palmateer for assistance and the officers observed more bass being caught and placed on a long stringer outside the boat. As darkness fell, the officers made their way out of the woods and located the vehicles associated with the anglers. Inside one of the vehicles, which was registered to a retail fish market in Brooklyn, the officers found a large cooler. ECO Palmateer noticed the boat making its way back to the access area. The three anglers returned to the vehicle and spotted the ECOs. The subjects told the officers they had been targeting sunfish but didn't keep any. The officers did not locate any fish with the men nor on their boat, but eventually located a 15-foot long stringer tied to a rock several feet offshore. A total of 35 smallmouth bass were alive on the stringer, the same stringer that had been tied to the boat earlier in the day. The men were issued a total of 13 tickets for failing to wear a PFD, trespassing, fishing without a license, taking black bass out of season, and illegally taking black bass for commercial sale. All three men also had their NYC Department of Environmental Protection access permits for the reservoir revoked and their boat permit revoked. The 35 bass were successfully released back to the water and the tickets are returnable to the Town of Hurley Court.

ECO standing in the woods looking through binoculars
ECO Palmateer watching from the shore of Ashokan Reservoir

A long rope-like string with many smallmouth bass caught on it.
Stringer of smallmouth bass located by ECOs Smith and Palmateer

ECOs Attend Minnesota Officer's Funeral Services
Inv. Neil Stevens and ECO Jason Hilliard, members of DLE's Honor Guard, represented DEC at the funeral services on April 26 for Minnesota Conservation Officer Eugene Wynn. The officer drowned in Cross Lake in central Minnesota on April 19, after being thrown from a boat while responding to an emergency report on the lake. Officers on shore attempted to reach the man in a rowboat but Officer Wynn slipped below the surface and did not resurface. Wildlife Conservation Officers from 20 states were among the hundreds of uniformed law enforcement officers who attended the service to pay their respects.

ECOs and other law enforcement standing outside of a building at funeral services for ECO
Inv. Neil Stevens and ECO Jason Hilliard joined a host
of law enforcement officials at the funeral service for a fallen ECO

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