DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights
ECO Actions for Late December and 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:
Holiday Season Ripe For Shellfish Violations – Westchester County
On Dec. 21, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Kevin Wamsley set out for a day of seafood market checks in Westchester County. With the upcoming holidays, some seafood markets increase stocks of shellfish and marine fish, and the possibility of associated health and safety violations typically increases, as well. Five separate seafood distribution facilities were checked for violations ranging from undersized fish and lobsters to proper storage and tagging of shellfish. While checking one of these locations, ECOs discovered two large bags of clams without required tags. The ECOs issued a summons for possession of untagged shellfish. Later in the day, two additional distributors were issued summonses for the possession of untagged shellfish. One charge is pending in the Town of Greenburgh Court and the other charges are pending in the City of Yonkers Court. Because the shellfish were of unknown origin, they could not be sold for consumption, and one bushel of topneck clams, one bushel of chowder clams, one bushel of cockles, and one box of geoduck clams were seized and destroyed.
A Whole Lot of Carp – Queens County
Illegally Guided Duck Hunt – Yates County
Unsafe Target Shooting – Onondaga County
On Dec. 29, ECO Don Damrath received a call from a couple hunting on the Three Rivers Wildlife Management Area in the town of Lysander. The hunters told Damrath they were pursuing pheasants with their Labrador Retriever when they heard gunshots and ricocheting bullets. The ricochets were close enough that the hunters ducked for cover and headed back to their vehicle. From the parking area, the couple observed two men shooting a handgun at a target hung on a tree. The only backstop was another group of trees, and the shots were being fired in the direction where the couple had been hunting. The couple were able to write down a vehicle registration before the two target shooters drove away. ECO Damrath called ECO Rick Head for assistance and after taking statements and collecting evidence, the officers tracked down the shooters in the city of Syracuse. The two men readily admitted to target shooting at the trees, using a permitted 9 mm handgun. The shooters also admitted that they did not consider the insufficiency of their backstop, nor that the bullets could ricochet or pose a danger to hunters using the property. ECO Damrath charged each shooter with unlawfully damaging vegetation on a Wildlife Management Area. In addition, ECO Damrath provided brief instruction on firearms safety and encouraged the shooters to join a gun club.
Multi-Agency Search for Missing Man – Orleans County
ECOs Charge Three Relatives in Hunting Related Shooting Incident – Orleans County
ECOs, working in conjunction with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office, arrested three individuals on Jan. 2, who were allegedly involved in a hunter related shooting incident (HRSI) that caused damage to a home on River Road in the town of Mount Morris. Robert R. Houseman, 35, of Greece, was charged with tampering with evidence, providing a false written statement, failing to carry tags afield while hunting, and discharging a firearm over a public highway. Richard A. Houseman, 65, and Richard R. Houseman, 35, both of Greece, were charged with tampering with evidence, providing a false written statement, and failing to carry tags afield while hunting. On Dec. 1, a homeowner contacted 911 after a bullet passed through a window and lodged in a wall of their residence. Orleans County Sheriff’s Deputies and ECOs were able to identify and locate a group of hunters that had fired at some deer across the street from the address. An investigation alleges that Robert Houseman fired the shot that passed over River Road and struck the residence. In an effort to conceal their actions, the three subjects allegedly tampered with physical evidence at the scene and provided false statements to investigating deputies and ECOs. The subjects were arraigned at the Livingston County Jail Central Arraignment Part (CAP) and released to appear at a later date. In addition to the criminal charges, Robert Houseman is facing the loss of his hunting privileges for a five-year period.
DEC Investigators Arrest Man for Dumping Asbestos on Wildlife Management Area – Orleans County
On Jan. 3, ECOs charged a man for dumping asbestos-laden materials on state land after a seven-month-long investigation. Carl J. Rivers, 49, from Albion, was arrested on felony charges of endangering public health, safety, or the environment in the 3rd degree, a class “E” Felony, as well as a violation level charges of unlawfully disposing of solid waste in Tonawanda Wildlife Management Area in the town of Alabama. In May 2018, ECO Gary Wilson was notified of an illegal dumpsite on Klossen Road. ECO Wilson investigated the dump site and immediately notified the DEC Spills unit and investigators with DEC’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit. Investigators from DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement’s Environmental Forensics Unit (EFU) and the State Department of Labor’s Asbestos Control Team assisted with the case. DEC Spills unit hired a contractor to clean up and remove the hazardous debris, which was brought to a registered facility. Rivers, already in custody on an unrelated charge, was transported to the Town of Alabama Court for arraignment. The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of up to four years in prison and/or a fine up to $150,000. The violation carries a penalty of up to 15 days in jail and/or a fine of $1,500 to $15,000. The subject is due back in court on March 7. DEC was assisted in this case by the State Department of Labor – Asbestos Control Bureau, the U.S. EPA, and the New York State Police.