DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Early to Mid-October

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 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:

 

K-9 Maritime Training – New York County


On Oct. 3, Region 2 ECOs Waldemar Auguscinski, Adam Muchow, Jacob Jankowski, and Michael Wozniak along with Region 1 ECO Chris DeRose and K-9 Cramer participated in a Police K-9 Maritime Training exercise in New York Harbor. The training was organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation canine unit and brought together more than 80 canine units from federal, state, and local agencies. The training included maritime boarding techniques, narcotics investigation exercises, gun powder, fish and wildlife and explosives detection, and handler protection scenarios. The training was the first opportunity for many of the handlers and K-9s to familiarize themselves with maritime procedures. DEC K-9 Cramer, the only fish and wildlife K-9 involved in the event, specializes in venison, striped bass, and waterfowl detection, but has also helped track criminals on land.

 

NYS ENCON Police Boat
Region 2 Vessel with K-9 Cramer Aboard in New York Harbor

 

Trespassing and Firearms Violations – Ulster County

On Oct. 9, ECO Lucas Palmateer received a trespassing complaint in the town of Shawangunk involving a hunter caught on a trail camera on two consecutive nights. The complainant stated that he had recently purchased the property and posted signs. ECOs Palmateer and Jason Smith investigated the video footage of the subject trespassing on the property, which clearly depicted the hunter shining his light at the posted sign. ECO Smith also noticed that the subject was carrying what appears to be a pistol on his right hip. The officers tracked down the subject and after a brief interview, he admitted to trespassing and carrying a pistol while bow hunting. The ECOs charged the subject with possessing a firearm afield while bow hunting, a misdemeanor. The subject is due to appear in Shawangunk Town Court.

 

Hunter Caught on Camera
Video still showing hunter viewing a posted sign

 

Bad Habits – Otsego County

On Oct. 13, ECO Mark Vencak responded to an illegal dumping complaint in the town of Worcester. Upon arriving at the suspect’s home, the officer noticed seven bags of corn piled on the ground near the rear door. The officer was met by the wife of the alleged offender. She said that she did not know her husband’s location. ECO Vencak noticed fresh ATV tracks nearby and asked the woman for permission to walk the property. The ECO located the man in the woods exiting one of several baited tree stands on the property. The subject was carrying a crossbow loaded with a bolt with a broadhead. The man stated that he was hunting turkeys. The ECO checked the surrounding area and found three additional baited corn piles. The subject was charged with hunting turkey out of season, hunting over bait, and illegal dumping of solid waste. He is set to appear in Worcester Town Court to answer to the charges.

 

Blackfish Itch – Richmond County

On Oct. 14, ECO Michael Wozniak received a call from a complainant stating that an individual had caught and failed to release two blackfish from Oceanbreeze Pier. When ECO Wozniak arrived at the scene, he was met by the complainant, who said the individual in question had left. The ECO patrolled the area and observed two anglers fishing on a jetty next to the pier. As he greeted the anglers, ECO Wozniak noticed what appeared to be a blackfish tail sticking out from beneath a rock on the jetty. Both anglers claimed they had not caught fish that day and were about to leave. The officer inquired about the fish underneath the rock and both individuals denied catching it. Upon further inspection, the ECO found a total of eight blackfish, six of which were under the legal size limit of 16 inches. Fortunately, all eight fish were still alive and were returned back to the waters of the state. The fishermen were issued two violations each for possession of blackfish out of season and failure to carry a marine registry. All summonses are returnable to Richmond County Criminal Court.

 

Fish on Rocks
Eight Blackfish found hidden in the rocks

 

Illegal Deer Taken from the Road – Franklin County

On Oct. 14, ECO Jennifer Okonuk received a complaint that a five-point buck had been shot from Akins Road in the town of Dickinson. ECO Okonuk responded to the location and met with a New York State Trooper. Soon after, a slow-driving vehicle pulled into the field with its headlights turned off. The ECO drove into the field and activated her emergency lights. The vehicle attempted to flee, but ECO Okonuk boxed them in. ECO Kevin Riggs arrived on scene to help interview the two individuals in the vehicle. The pair were charged with misdemeanors for possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharging a firearm from a public highway, and killing a deer except as permitted by law. The deer was given to a local venison donation program.

 

ECO with Buck
ECO Jennifer Okonuk with
recovered five-point buck

 

Salmon River Shenanigans – Oswego County

Mid-October was quite busy for Region 7 ECOs with the late salmon run luring fishermen to the Salmon River to bag a trophy fish, some with little regard for the law. ECOs Ricardo Grisolini and Rob Howe worked in plainclothes, observing two individuals attempting to take fish by snatching in Pulaski. While surveilling the pair, one of the individuals managed to hook and land a fish. The angler put the fish onto a stringer rather than releasing it as required. As the fishermen prepared to leave the water, the ECOs approached and identified themselves. ECO Grisolini issued the first violator summonses for attempting to take fish by snatching and keeping a foul hooked fish. ECO Howe issued the second angler a summons for attempting to take fish by snatching. The next day, the officers spotted two anglers near the South Trestle Pool foul hook an Atlantic Salmon and a Steelhead. While questioning the subjects, the ECOs determined one was fishing with an expired license. The two fishermen were ticketed for various violations, including possession of foul hooked fish and fishing without a freshwater fishing license. On the same day, ECO Matt Foster responded to a complaint of trespassing on property owned by the Douglaston Salmon Run. The suspect in this case was issued a ticket for trespassing.

 

Anything That Burns? No Way! – Chenango County

Unlawful open burning continues to be an issue in Region 7, with multiple, recent complaints. On Oct. 14, ECO Harry Chase responded to the town of Afton to investigate a report of open burning for disposal. A town resident alleged that a subject had recently bought a barn and was cleaning it out, burning nearly all of its contents in an open fire. Upon his arrival, ECO Chase found a large fire that included tires. In addition, the subject was observing his three children enjoying pizza close to the flames, subjecting them to the thick, black smoke. When confronted, the subject stated he thought he was doing the neighborhood a favor by burning the debris. ECO Chase charged the subject with unlawful disposal of solid waste and unlawful open burning.

 

Pile of Burning Trash
Hazardous smoke from burning tires in Afton