DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late March

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, 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, 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 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:

You Can't Fence Me In - Ontario County
On March 15, a man in the village of Victor called DEC's Avon Office about a deer that was stuck in a backyard fence. The deer's right hind leg had gotten stuck in the chain links as it attempted to jump the fence. ECO Keith Levanway arrived on scene and saw that the deer was suspended off the ground. He quickly used a pair of wire cutters while trying to steady the deer that desperately wanted to get away. After a few clips, the deer limped off, slightly favoring his right leg. The deer was spotted a short time later in good health and bounding off into the woods.

Deer hung up in a fence in Victor

Right Place, Right Time - Orange County
On March 17, ECO Melissa Burgess received a complaint from town of New Windsor Police concerning individuals who were dumping garbage into Quassaic Creek. The subjects were observed throwing household garbage, mattresses, bedframes, bags of clothes and a couch down the streambank. The initial report had been made by a bystander who had witnessed the dumping and pursued the U-Haul box truck. The man was able to describe the suspects and detailed where they had fled. ECOs Burgess and Will Chomicki arrived on scene, where New Windsor PD officers had the subjects detained. The suspects were ordered to retrieve all the dumped solid waste and their truck was impounded. The two subjects were issued tickets for the unlawful disposal of solid waste, returnable to the Town of New Windsor Court.

NYS ECO's posing next to reclaimed solid waste
ECO Burgess and ECO Chomicki with New Windsor PD and the reclaimed solid waste

Stuck on a Snowmobile Trail - Schuyler County
On March 21, ECO Travis McNamara was on patrol when he heard radio traffic from Schuyler County Dispatch advising of a stranded motorist in Sugar Hill State Forest with a possible medical condition. ECO McNamara patrolled to the closest accessible location where he found a Tyrone Fire Department volunteer and the friend of the stranded motorist. The friend stated that he received a text message at approximately 11 a.m. that morning stating, "Good knowing you" from the motorist. ECO McNamara and the volunteer fireman set out on foot, locating the stranded motorist approximately half-mile down the snowmobile trail. The motorist explained that he was on his way to a medical appointment the previous day when he attempted to take the "shortcut" down the seasonal road and ended up getting stuck. The motorist had been there since noon the day before and had been stranded all night. Fortunately, the motorist had blankets and winter clothes in the vehicle and was able to periodically run the vehicle to stay warm throughout the night. Beaver Dams and Tyrone volunteer fire department UTV's arrived on scene a short time later and with the aid of the firemen, the motorist was transported to the plowed roadway, where he was assessed by the Schuyler Volunteer Ambulance and found to have not sustained any injuries.

suv stranded being helped out by a fire department UTV
The stranded motorist is helped to a Fire Department UTV

Garage Inspection - Richmond County
On March 23, ECOs Dustin Osborne and Max Woyton conducted an inspection of a commercial garage on Staten Island. The inspection uncovered multiple violations, including an unregistered 250-gallon waste oil tank that was filling up with rain water. It also had no fill gauge and was improperly labeled. Upon further investigation, the ECOs also discovered that the shop was using a 55-gallon drum for both waste oil and antifreeze. The drum was being stored outside with no cap and was leaking into the parking lot of the shop. The operator of the shop was charged with failure to register waste oil tank, failure to clean up a spill, failure to maintain waste oil tank in good condition and having no gauge or high-level device. He is set to appear in the Richmond County Court on June 15.

Improperly stored waste oil storage tank

An oil storage tank outside with an opening at the top
Improper waste oil storage tanks

More Stripers out of Season - Westchester County
On March 24, ECO Dustin Dainack patrolled the Hudson River from Peekskill to Croton looking for striped bass violations prior to the start of the season, which begins April 1. ECO Dainack encountered four fishermen throughout his patrols in possession of between five to seven striped bass each. ECO Dainack found fish hidden in the rocks or tied to stringers in the water. ECO Dainack issued a total of four tickets for possession of striped bass out of season and one ticket for no marine registry. A total of 25 illegally taken striped bass were seized.

striped bass in a small muddy hole
Seven of the 25 striped bass seized

Welcome to the Jungle - Orange County
On March 25, ECOs Adam Johnson, Tom Koepf, Deo Read, Lucas Palmateer, Will Chomicki and Investigator Josh Sulkey entered an auction house in Orange County suspected of selling a number of endangered and exotic animal mounts. ECO Chomicki had previously reached out to DEC's Special Licensing unit, which confirmed the business had no permits for the sales. Sulkey performed a walkthrough of the establishment to confirm all the items displayed were for sale and called in the uniformed officers for enforcement. The ECOs seized multiple items including an African lion, a mountain Lion, and a wolf. Legal action is pending as the case remains under investigation.

ECO's posing with confiscated exotic animal mounts and skins
ECOs Johnson, Koepf, Read, Palmateer, and Chomicki with
confiscated exotic animal mounts and skins