Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Thursday, July 6, 2023

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State's Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. In 2022, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to more than 25,600 calls and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 13,800 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators work hard each day to serve their communities, protect our precious natural resources, and safeguard public health, while ensuring those who break the state's stringent Environmental Conservation Laws are held accountable," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "In partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement, DEC looks forward to continuing to support the work our ECOs perform in every corner of New York."

Defiant Dumper - Montgomery County

In June, a Herkimer County man answered to charges for illegally dumping solid waste in Montgomery County last year. On Oct. 2, 2022, at the request of the Montgomery County Sherriff's Office, ECO Willson began investigating illegal dumping of garbage on private property in the town of Minden. The ECO responded to the location and found several bags of garbage containing children's toys, school textbooks, a fish tank, and information leading back to a Herkimer County address. Officer Willson interviewed a subject at the address who claimed he cleaned out garbage from his girlfriend's new home and hauled it off responsibly using a truck and trailer. When ECO Willson informed the subject that the garbage was illegally dumped in Minden, his story changed. The subject advised a friend took the trash. When asked for contact information for his friend, the subject claimed a "friend of a friend" took the rubbish. Unable to provide contact information for any of these "friends," Officer Willson ticketed the subject for illegal disposal of solid waste. The defendant was given the opportunity to clean up the garbage in exchange for consideration from the court, but failed to do so and failed to appear in court on multiple scheduled appearance dates. After several months, the defendant pleaded not guilty and decided to take his chances at trial. ECO Willson presented his case and the defendant was found guilty of the illegal disposal of solid waste and fined $2,000, with $500 going to the complainant property owner for restitution and damages.

Pile of trash and debris in the woods
Illegal solid waste dumped in the town of Minden, Montgomery County

Solid Waste Investigation Leads to Significant Charges - Suffolk County

A nearly year-long investigation into illegal dumping in Suffolk County recently resulted in a slew of charges in the town of Riverhead. In July 2022, Code Enforcement Officers notified Environmental Conservation Police Investigators of more than 1,000 yards of illegal fill material spread in a vacant lot. Testing of the material confirmed it was not suitable for use as fill. In June 2023, DEC's Bureau of Environmental Crime Investigations (BECI), with assistance from the Suffolk County Attorney's Office, charged a recycling company, trucking company, and property owner with endangering public health, safety, or the environment, unlawful disposal of solid waste, and other environmental crimes.

POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony on Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway - Warren County

On June 4, ECOs LaPoint and Gerrain participated in the 54th annual POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony on Prospect Mountain in Lake George to honor the more than 80,000 American service members missing in action or taken as prisoners of war. The ECOs led the procession up the Prospect Mountain Veterans Memorial Highway, followed by American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard Riders, and Christian Motorcycle Riders Association. At the top of the mountain, bands from two local schools played patriotic songs and accompanied a rendition of the national anthem. Approximately 200 people attended the event.

Clams and Claws - Queens County

On June 13, ECOs Swart and Keegan received reports of a group of people clamming in an area not certified for shellfish collection. The Officers arrived at the location and found 14 people in Jamaica Bay collecting clams and blue crabs. After an inspection, the ECOs also found some anglers in possession of undersized and over-the-limit crabs. Six individuals received a total of 14 tickets and ECOs returned 185 crabs and 307 shellfish to Jamaica Bay.

ECO measuring crab next to pile of clams
ECO measures crab in Queens County for size limit compliance

Sorry, Netters - Nassau County

On the evening of June 19, ECO Pabes received a call from an angler at Twin Lakes Preserve in Wantagh reporting multiple subjects netting in Seaman Pond, a popular freshwater fishing location in Nassau County. Minutes later, ECO Pabes arrived at the pond and observed an angler in the water actively casting a net. Officer Pabes approached the group and interviewed the anglers, who claimed to not have any fish or fishing licenses. However, ECO Pabes observed a shopping bag on the ground next to one of the subjects. Inside, the Officer found 218 sunfish, 39 yellow perch, three undersized chain pickerel, and nine black bass. It is unlawful to take fish by netting, black bass is catch-and-release only in Nassau County, the chain pickerel must measure at least 15 inches, and there is a daily limit of 25 for sunfish. The anglers apologetically admitted to taking the fish before accepting five tickets each for fishing without a license, taking fish by means other than angling, taking fish out of season, taking undersized fish, and taking in excess of the daily limit. All tickets were made returnable to Nassau County First District Court.

ECO stands next to a slew of small fish on the ground
ECO Pabes with illegally netted freshwater fish

Eaglet in Distress - Broome County

On June 22, ECO Wing responded to a report of an eaglet stuck in a tree just below its nest in the town of Fenton, Broome County. Officer Wing met with the complainant who had been watching the nest for some time and was able to pinpoint the exact location of the distressed bird. The nest, previously unknown to DEC staff, sat in a tall white pine tree on a steep hill across from the Chenango River and Route 88. ECO Wing estimated the young eagle was at least 80 feet up the tree and called several tree companies with no immediate response. He then spoke with representatives from the State Department of Transportation (DOT) about a climber nearby who agreed to the tall task. The DOT climber made his way up the tree and discovered the eaglet's talon was caught in the crook of a branch. He freed the eagle and the bird descended to the ground where Lieutenant Rigoli and ECO Wing safely collected the bird and prepared it for transfer to the care of DEC Wildlife staff. The eaglet was then sent for treatment at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Hospital at Cornell University. Post rescue, the DOT climber said the bird was, in fact, 120 feet up the tree.

ECOs and DOT workers hlding large Eaglet
From left to right: Lt. Rigoli, Christian Klecha (DOT), Ryan Ashley (DOT), and ECO Wing with rescued young eagle in Broome County

Not Your Typical Pesticides Case - Suffolk County

On June 23, ECO DeRose conducted surveillance on a landscaper he observed with pesticide application equipment but no indication of a registered pesticide business. One of the landscaping crew spotted Officer DeRose's marked patrol vehicle after about 20 minutes, entered the enclosed trailer, and then walked out of it suspiciously. ECO DeRose approached the worker and found a container of a concentrated general use pesticide, an unlabeled bag of granular pesticide, an unlabeled backpack sprayer with liquid pesticide inside, pesticide lawn markers, and a walk behind spreader. The Officer interviewed the worker and confirmed the business was not registered to apply pesticides, a violation of New York State pesticide regulations. After checking the worker's identification, ECO DeRose found the worker had an order of protection served on him earlier in the year and that the protected party was also an employee of the landscaping company. The subject was placed under arrest and processed for violating an order of protection (Criminal Contempt in the 2nd degree), operating an unregistered pesticide business, not displaying required pesticide decals on his vehicle, and possessing unlabeled equipment containing pesticides. The subject was held for arraignment the following the day.

Shell Shock - Suffolk County

On June 24, while patrolling in the hamlet of East Marion, ECO Zullo observed several anglers with coolers on the shore of the Oyster Ponds Waterway Access Site. Officer Zullo approached the anglers and observed a cooler with ice and a variety of fish including five out-of-season blackfish, 14 porgies, a rock crab, and a large, live diamondback terrapin. The ECO interviewed an individual who claimed ownership of the cooler and admitted to finding the turtle on the beach next to a log and putting it in his cooler. During this investigation, a town park employee told ECO Zullo that a different individual was observed burying fish in the sand on the adjoining beach property. ECO Zullo located the individual and walked with him to the location. After some probing in the sand, ECO Zullo found 10 porgies. The ECO issued several tickets to the first offender for possessing blackfish out of season, as well as a ticket for unlawful possession of a protected species and another ticket for illegal take of a protected species. The second angler who hid fish in the sand was issued a ticket for unlawful take of undersized porgy. All tickets are returnable to the Southold Town Justice Court. The diamondback terrapin, a state protected species, was released to the Long Island Sound.

Turtle in the back of a truck next to some dead fish
Diamondback terrapin seized by ECO Zullo during fishing enforcement in Suffolk County

View a video of the turtle being released back into the ocean on DEC's website.

NYC Jet Ski Invasion Rescue - Kings County

On June 24, ECOs Clinger, Parmelee, Rappold, and Veloski spent the day assisting with the NYC Jet Ski Invasion, an annual event where an estimated 800 recreational boaters travel via jet-ski down the East River, through New York Harbor, and up the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge. While conducting a security patrol on vessel A-12, the Officers were flagged down by an anxious jet-skier who reported a sinking boat on the East River. The Officers responded quickly, placing a pump on the sinking vessel before bringing two people from the boat onto their patrol boat. Jet-skiers picked up the remaining three passengers and transferred them to a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit. ECOs and the New York Police Department's Harbor Unit secured lines to the vessel so it could be towed. After successfully dewatering it the vessel, crews safely towed the boat to Liberty Landing Marina in New Jersey where the five boaters were reunited.

ECO vessel towing sinking vessel to shore
ECOs conducting water rescue on New York City's East River

Open Burn and Illegal Disposal - Rensselaer County

On June 28, a Rensselaer County man received a court-mandated penalty for intentionally setting fire to solid waste. On June 2, ECO Willson responded with assistance from Forest Ranger Jackson to the city of Rensselaer for an unattended fire that resulted from burning solid waste. Officer Willson arrived at the location and observed a burning pile of solid waste consisting of construction and demolition materials, scrap metal, tires, and household garbage. ECO Willson interviewed the business owner, who admitted to lighting the fire to dispose of the waste. The Officer explained the open burning and solid waste disposal laws to the subject and issued two tickets for the unclassified misdemeanor of open burning and for the violation of illegal disposal of solid waste. With the high winds and dry conditions at the time, the local fire department responded and extinguished the smokey fire to ensure public safety. ECO Willson appeared at the arraignment in Rensselaer City Court and the defendant accepted a plea agreement to one count of illegal disposal of solid waste, a violation with a fine of $1,500.

Smoking pile of burned trash and debris
Remains of burning waste discovered in Rensselaer County

ECOs Help Secure Airshow - Orange County

Region 3 ECOs teamed up with the Orange County Sheriff and New York State Police to assist with perimeter security during the annual New York State Airshow at the Orange County Airport. The airshow featured the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, West Point parachute team, and other aviators performing stunts for the crowd. The show ran from June 23 to 25.

ECO ATV in a field as four jets fly over in the sky
U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly in formation over ECOs at the New York State Airshow

To contact an ECO to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email (for non-urgent violations).

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