DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid-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:

They Don't Want to Learn - Dutchess County
On Jan. 14, ECO Bob Hodor was on patrol in Poughkeepsie when he observed a tractor trailer being loaded with waste tires at a tire dealer. From a distance, the trailer did not appear to be marked properly. ECO Hodor followed the truck when it left and could not identify permit numbers on the trailer. The officer stopped the vehicle and confirmed his suspicions - the driver couldn't produce a permit. Tickets were issued to the New Jersey-based hauling company for failure to carry a permit in the vehicle and failure to display permit numbers. ECO Hodor returned to the tire dealer and spotted a second truck from another waste hauling company, also from New Jersey. Again, a vehicle stop resulted in violations, and tickets were issued for failure to carry a permit in the vehicle and failure to display permit numbers as required. On Jan. 16, ECO Hodor checked the tire dealer again and discovered the two trucking companies at the location loading their trailers with waste tires. This time, one of the trailers had the required permit number displayed. However, tickets were again issued to the other trailer for transporting regulated waste without a permit and failure to display permit numbers.

Green, Gray, and Blue Solve the Case - Sullivan County
On Jan. 15, Sullivan County 911 received a complaint from a Grahamsville resident who heard several gunshots followed by the sound of a bullet hitting his garage. New York State Troopers responded and requested ECOs to assist. Prior to ECO Ricky Wood's arrival, NYC Department of Environmental Protection Police also responded and found two men at a house on an adjacent road. The pair stated they were target shooting with a .308 rifle from the porch of a house. There was a target on a tree at the edge of the yard that appeared to be directly in line with the complainant's garage. The subjects said they shot a total of five or six times and gave a Trooper three spent .308 shell casings. ECO Wood then deployed K-9 Deming, who found another casing in the grass and one near the end of the porch. ECO Wood determined that the subjects had fired from just over 300 feet without the permission of the occupants. The two men were arrested and charged by State Police with reckless endangerment 2nd degree. ECO Wood issued tickets to the subjects for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling. The subjects were released and are scheduled to appear in Neversink Town Court.

Specialized UTV Training - Oswego County
On Jan. 16, ECOs from across the state attended a utility task vehicle (UTV) training course at the DEC Division of Law Enforcement's (DLE) training facility in Oswego County. The training consisted of a classroom session followed by several live courses in the operation of DLE's specialized tracked UTVs. ECOs John Helmeyer, Kurt Bush, Shane Manns, Tim Worden, and Lt. Steve Bartoszewski led the training. The ECOs who attended the training are now be able to provide expertise and training to other officers in their respective regions.

Utility task vehicles on top of a snowy hill
ECOs during training with tracked UTVs

City Dumper Napped - Onondaga County
On Jan. 19, ECO Don Damrath and Syracuse Police Officer Carlos Romain culminated a week-long investigation of illegal dumping at several sites around Syracuse with an arrest. The unlawfully dumped materials included auto parts, waste oil, waste tires, and general household trash. The suspect erred by dumping evidence linking the precise source of the waste to the crime scene. He also disposed of some of the waste in a vacant lot directly adjacent to the business that generated it. The man was charged with several city code violations, the unlawful disposal of solid waste, and unlawful disposal of regulated waste. With a major winter storm approaching, ECO Damrath ensured clean-up of the dump sites before the storm dumped up to 20 inches of snow on the trash piles.

Snowy field with trash, a tire, and other garbage along with two law enforcement vehicles in the background
One of several dump sites investigated by
ECO Damrath and Syracuse Police

Injured Red Tail Hawk - Ulster County
On Jan. 20, ECO Jeannette Bastedo responded to a report of injured Red-Tailed Hawk in Wawarsing. The hawk had last been seen by a homeowner on his wood pile and appeared to have an injured wing. The hawk demonstrated uncharacteristic behavior when it didn't attempt to fly when the homeowner approached to investigate. A wildlife rehabilitator assisted in the response, but when the officer and the rehabilitator arrived at the home, the hawk had moved to a nearby tree. The hawk hopped further out on a branch and then fell to the ground. ECO Bastedo and the rehabilitator captured the bird and transported it to another wildlife rehabilitator who specializes in treating injured raptors.

Large hawk on top of a wood pile covered in snow
Injured Red-Tailed Hawk
perched on homeowner's woodpile

Social Media Posts Reveal Wildlife Violations - Chenango County
On Jan. 23, ECOs Brett Armstrong, Mary Grose, Matt Burdick, Andy Kostuk, and Lt. Will Burnell executed a search warrant in Norwich as the result of an ongoing investigation by ECO Armstrong into reports of individuals harboring raccoons as pets. The possession of live, wild raccoons is both a violation of state law and a health hazard, as raccoons are a rabies vector species. Upon execution of the warrant, the ECOs found 13 people, including children, living in the house. There was evidence that the raccoons had been kept there but had since been sold to another Norwich resident. Moving quickly, ECOs responded to the second location, where the two raccoons were voluntarily turned over. The new owner reported they had been bitten by one of the raccoons. ECOs recommended the person visit a doctor immediately, and the Chenango County Department of Health is determining whether any of the individuals exposed to the animals will be required to undergo the rabies vaccine series. The animals were transported to a local veterinarian to be euthanized and tested for the rabies virus. Charges for harboring the animals are pending completion of the investigation and identification of additional suspects. DEC reminds New Yorkers that all wildlife should remain wild, and serious problems can arise when humans interfere with animals. Visit DEC's website to learn more.

Two raccoons in a cage draped with a sheet
Raccoons Seized by ECOs in Norwich

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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