DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early 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 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:

Justice Served in the Strangest Way - Ulster County
On Jan. 4, ECO Jason Smith and Investigator Josh Sulkey were in Wawarsing investigating an unrelated deer hunting complaint when they observed the man in the passenger seat of a vehicle turning into a residence. The officers, recognizing the man from a trail camera photo from a previous trespassing case, stopped and confronted the man and questioned him about the incident. In August 2018, the officers received a complaint from a landowner and bowhunter in the town of Wawarsing regarding a subject trespassing on posted property. The landowner provided several trail camera photographs of the suspect, which ECO Smith showed to neighboring landowners and other local law enforcement, but no one could identify the man. The man in the vehicle admitted to being the subject in the photo and was issued a summons for trespassing on posted property, returnable to the Town of Wawarsing Court.

Mountain Top Rescue - Herkimer County
On Jan. 4, ECO John Gates was called to assist the Webb Police Department, Old Forge EMS, and DEC Forest Rangers in the rescue of an injured hiker on the top of Bald Mountain in northern Herkimer County. ECO Gates accompanied Forest Ranger Greg Hoag on the hike to the top of the icy mountain. ECO Gates carried medical supplies and blankets and assisted Ranger Hoag in removing logs and branches along the trail that would slow the rescue. When the two arrived at the top, they assisted EMS, Forest Rangers, and police personnel in stabilizing the patient before the trip down the frozen, rocky trail. The patient was loaded into a rescue sled and slowly carried to the trailhead. At many points during the trip, rescue personnel employed ropes and pulley systems to carefully guide the victim down in a controlled descent. The group arrived at the bottom of the mountain about 90 minutes after leaving the summit. The patient was transported via ambulance to a hospital in Utica for further treatment.

Injured hiker being carried down Bald Mountain
Injured hiker being carried down the mountain by rescue personnel

Dumping Complaint Leads to Illegal Deer Charges - Niagara County
On Jan. 4, ECO George Scheer responded to a complaint that someone had dumped several deer carcasses in the city of Lockport. During the investigation, and based on his wildlife forensics training, ECO Scheer identified one of the carcasses as being only a few days old and that it had been shot on site over bait and with a crossbow. He determined that the carcasses were being used as bait for coyotes. ECO Scheer identified a suspect who was subsequently interviewed and confirmed the evidence. After admitting to shooting the deer over bait on Dec. 30, 12 days after the season had closed, the individual was charged with hunting deer out of season and hunting deer over bait.

deer carcasses
Dumped deer carcasses

Solid Evidence Foils Poachers at Rental Property - Delaware County
DNA and video evidence helped settle a case on Jan. 5 that involved four individuals who illegally shot two deer in the town of Sidney. On Sept. 1, 2018, ECO Tim Card received a call at 3 a.m. reporting a deer jacking. The complainant had discovered fresh blood in the middle of the road and followed a blood trail for a mile to a house where he believed the deer had been taken. ECO Card arrived to find no one at home. He contacted ECO Nathan Doig and ECO Vern Bauer with K-9 Woods for assistance. ECO Bauer worked K-9 Woods in the area of the residence and located DNA evidence. ECO Card gathered additional DNA evidence and took detailed pictures of the scene. Meanwhile, ECO Doig contacted the property owner, who stated he had rented the house out to a group for the weekend. ECOs Doig and Bauer reviewed hours of video footage from a security camera at the house and retrieved blood samples from inside the residence. The DNA evidence was submitted to DEC's Wildlife Pathology Lab, confirming that two deer were actually killed and that the blood from inside the house matched the blood in the roadway. In October, ECOs Doig and Bauer interviewed the primary suspect at his residence in Ozone Park, Queens. After additional interviews, a total of four individuals were charged with 10 ECL charges. The case was settled in Town of Sidney Court with the four subjects paying more than $2,500 in total penalties.

Stuck in the Mud and Trespassing - Delaware County
On Jan. 5, ECO Dustin Osborne met a complainant in the town of Franklin regarding an abandoned vehicle found on posted property. The vehicle appeared to have been 'off-roading' while trespassing on multiple properties and was stuck in the woods. The complainant also had trail camera photos of the vehicle in late September and early October of 2018. ECO Osborne determined that the registration was recently surrendered but the previous owner lived nearby. ECO Osborne located the person responsible for leaving the vehicle on the complainant's property, issued summonses for trespassing on two different properties, and ensured the vehicle was removed.

Abandoned vehicle stuck in the mud
Vehicle stuck in mud on posted property

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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