DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late May to Early June

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:

 

Pound Ridge Truck Detail – Westchester County

On May 27, ECOs Chloe Swansen and Craig Tompkins participated in a commercial truck enforcement detail with the Pound Ridge Police Department and the New York State Police Commercial Motor Vehicle Unit. Commercial vehicles were directed into a parking lot where officers conducted inspections regarding safety, State Department of Transportation (DOT) compliance, and state and local laws, including state Environmental Conservation Law. Many, but not all, of the checked vehicles were in compliance, but multiple summonses were issued by the various agencies during the detail. Tickets written by ECOs included emitting blue smoke for more than three seconds and transporting waste without a paper copy of the transporter permit.

 

Two commercial vehicles parked on the road, one of which has thick smoke coming from it
Excessive smoke coming from one of the commercial vehicles inspected

 

Franklin County Traffic Safety Board Awards Ceremony – Franklin County

On May 29, ECO Jeff Hovey and Lt. Rob Higgins attended the annual Franklin County Traffic Safety Board Awards Meeting hosted by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police Department at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino. The annual awards are presented to law enforcement officers who work in Franklin County and have made a positive impact with traffic and DUI enforcement. ECO Hovey was presented with one of the awards. Additional recipients include officers from the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police, DEC Forest Rangers, New York State Troopers, Malone Police Department, Saranac Lake Police Department, and Tupper Lake Police Department.

 

ECOs and Local Law Enforcement pose to take a picture with their awards
Franklin County Traffic Safety Board Award Recipients

 

DEC Drone Assists with Spill Response – Jefferson County

On May 31, Lt. Chris Didion responded to assist the U.S. Coast Guard with a fuel spill that occurred in the St. Lawrence River near Grindstone Island. Lt. Didion is a member of DEC’s UAS (unmanned aircraft system or drone) unit. Using a DEC drone, Lt. Didion captured aerial images of the release of diesel fuel from an abandoned barge. The images were provided to the Coast Guard and a spills contractor to help manage and contain the spill. The investigation into the cause of the spill is ongoing.

 

An aerial view of the St. Lawrence Rive with a oil-sheen rainbow on the surface
Aerial images of the spill from DEC drone

 

Wetland and Beaver Dam Damage – Schoharie County

On May 31, Lt. Mike Terrell was contacted by the town of Broome Highway Superintendent Jason Wayman, who believed that a property owner had breached a beaver dam, causing flooding and damage to a town road. Lt. Terrell observed a piece of heavy equipment at the property owner’s residence. An investigation determined that the owners were from Queens and only came up on weekends. ECO Russ Fetterman interviewed the property owner the following weekend and the subject admitted to breaching the dam, but was unaware of what had happened afterward. ECO Fetterman explained that the beaver dam was holding back millions of gallons of water and that a DEC permit is required to alter the dam and the surrounding, protected wetland. ECO Fetterman explained the severity of the damage that occurred and that it was fortunate no one was injured. Tickets for disturbing the dam and wetland are pending in the Town of Broome Court, and ECO Fetterman is working with the Schoharie County District Attorney’s Office to seek restitution for materials and costs incurred by the town to repair the road.

 

a woodsy town road that looks like it's been washed out, mud, sticks and rocks all over the road
Damage caused by flooding from the beaver dam

 

Tautog Too Late – Westchester County


On May 31, ECOs Chloe Swansen and Craig Tompkins patrolled Long Island Sound out of Rye in Westchester County. The majority of the vessels checked that day were in compliance with marine fishing and navigation laws, and one lucky angler had caught a 42-inch striped bass. However, on one of the vessels, the officers found three blackfish, known as tautog, and the season for these fish had closed on April 30. All three anglers on the boat admitted to catching a blackfish and, in turn, were each issued a summons for possession of out-of-season blackfish, returnable to the New Rochelle Court.

 

Three blackfish in a row on a boat deck
Three blackfish caught out of season

 

International Road Check – Chautauqua County

On June 3 and June 6, ECOs Darci Dougherty, Jerry Kinney, and Lt. Don Pleakis worked a joint detail with the New York State Police, Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, State DOT, and US DOT at the I-86 rest area in the town of Ellery. The officers were part of a 72-hour international commercial vehicle enforcement blitz targeting inspections for safety and environmental violations. ECOs issued several tickets to drivers for violations ranging from operating an unregistered truck to exhaust leaks.

 

ECO vehicle and a large semi truck parked at a rest stop for inspection
DLE vehicle at commercial vehicle inspection site in Chautauqua County