DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights
ECO Actions for Late 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:
Timber Theft Leads to Felony Charges – Sullivan County
In April 2019, ECO Tom Koepf received a complaint from a landowner in the town of Cochecton who said she recently walked her property and noticed that several dozen mature trees had been cut down and removed. Several properties around the complainant had been logged recently, but no permission was given to a logger to cut on her property. ECO Koepf walked the property with the complainant and a forester hired to assess the damage. Koepf found that the woman’s property boundaries were clearly marked and that a theft of timber had occurred. The forester provided Koepf with a report showing that 120 mature trees were cut and removed, amounting to an estimated damage and theft amount of $43,548. On June 24, ECO Koepf, with assistance from New York State Police (NYSP) Troopers in Liberty, arrested and processed the logger for a class D felony of grand larceny in the third degree and a class A misdemeanor of removing trees from lands of another (timber theft). The logger was arraigned at the Town of Cochecton Court and given an appearance date in August.
Wetlands Double Whammy – Suffolk County
On June 25, ECO Kaitlin Grady responded to a complaint of ongoing construction at a house adjoining wetlands in the village of Old Field. Upon her arrival, ECO Grady observed a large house in the process of being renovated. The contractor had brought in fill and deposited boulders along the property line adjacent to the regulated wetlands area. The contractor had put no erosion control measures in place, and the construction activity was occurring in an area with both freshwater and saltwater wetlands. ECO Grady confirmed there were no DEC permits to conduct the activity. Tickets were issued to the contractor and the property owner, and both parties were instructed to follow up with DEC’s wetlands staff to come into compliance with state regulations.
Unpermitted construction adjacent to wetlands
Dumping in Broad Daylight Captured on Video – Sullivan County
On June 21, ECO Tom Koepf was alerted to a Facebook post of a video of a male subject in a U-Haul truck dumping a large red couch on a dead end road in the town of Thompson. ECO Koepf contacted the person who posted the video and was provided with a license plate from the truck. The ECO investigated the case with assistance from Sullivan County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Robbins. Robbins tracked the rental to a service center in Rock Hill, where the officers were given the name of a female subject who had rented the truck. Surveillance video from the store showed the woman with the male from the Facebook video walking in to rent the truck. Deputy Robbins interviewed the subject and showed her the surveillance video. The woman gave the officer a written statement that it was her husband in the surveillance video. On June 26, the officers issued the husband tickets for unlawful disposal of solid waste, depositing a noisome or unwholesome substance on or near a roadway, and violating the town’s littering ordinance. All of the charges are retunable to the Town of Thompson Court.
Facebook video capture of couch being dumped
Combined Patrol Leads to Multiple Charges – Hamilton County
On June 26, ECO Pete Buswell and Forest Ranger Dave Kallen conducted a boat patrol on Sacandaga Lake in Hamilton County, checking fishing activity and remote state campsites. At one of the more heavily used campsites, the ECO and Ranger found trash strewn about, nearly 80 fish carcasses in the water near the shore, beer cans, marijuana, and smoking paraphernalia. No one was at the site when the officers first arrived, but a short time later, a motorboat approached with two young men on board. Once on shore, the officers interviewed the two about the violations at their campsite before transporting the subjects and their boat to the Moffit Beach boat launch, where field sobriety tests were administered to the operator. The operator was arrested for boating while intoxicated (BWI) and both individuals were ticketed for unlawful possession of marijuana, possession of alcohol by a minor, fishing without a license, discarding fish carcasses within 100 feet of the water, and mutilation of fish as to make size and species not identifiable. All of the charges are returnable to the Lake Pleasant Town Court.
Up to No Good – Wyoming County
On June 27, ECOs James Hunt and RJ Ward were patrolling by boat on Silver Lake when they spotted two people on a small boat tucked behind a willow tree along the shore. The ECOs watched as the operator of the vessel filleted fish and dumped the carcasses over the side of the boat, which is illegal in New York. The officers approached the boat and found carcasses of pumpkinseeds and black crappies in the water alongside it. In addition, the boat was not registered and did not have enough life jackets on board. The ECOs escorted the vessel back to shore and issued tickets for both ECL and Navigation Law offenses, returnable to the Perry Town Court.
Wildlife Rescue Success Story – Broome County
On June 28, ECO Andy McCormick released a Canada Goose back into the wild at Otsiningo Park in the town of Dickinson. ECO McCormick had previously rescued and transported the goose to Cornell University for rehabilitation after it became entangled with an injury to its foot. At Cornell, the goose received veterinary care and deemed releasable.
ECO McCormick, Broome County Security Officer Dewing, and goose
Two Hawks, One Day – Columbia and Schenectady Counties
On June 29, ECOs Wes Leubner and Lt. Jason DeAngelis responded to a report of an injured Red-Tailed Hawk in the town of Glenville. Residents said the hawk was unable to fly and moving around slowly on the ground for several hours. When the ECOs arrived, the officers found the hawk in the shade of a home, visibly distressed. Utilizing a pair of leather gloves, a cotton shirt, and a cardboard box, the ECOs picked up the juvenile hawk and carefully placed it in the box for transport to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Also on June 29, ECO Mike Arp received a call from off-duty NYS Park Police Officer Bill Arp, his brother, who had located another injured hawk on State Rt. 23 in the town of Claverack. ECO Arp met his brother, took possession of the bird, and transported it to a wildlife rehabilitator for treatment and eventual release back to the wild.
Arp brothers with an injured hawk in Claverack
“Jet Ski Invasion” – New York County
On June 29, Lt. Dawn Galvin and ECOs Auguscinski, Woyton, Wozniak, Harvey, and Dickson assisted the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies in securing the Hudson and East River for the “NYC Invasion” event. During the event, 400 personal watercraft took to the East River and sped around the tip of Manhattan to the George Washington Bridge in the Hudson River. The various agencies involved patrolled the route to minimize impact to port traffic, ensure safe navigation for vessels, and ensure recreational boating safety was observed. Of the 400 participating watercraft, ECOs only had to respond to a single capsized rider and safely assisted the operator to shore.
“NYC Invasion” in waters off Manhattan