Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

Environmental Conservation Police on Patrol

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. In 2022, Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to more than 25,600 calls and worked on cases that resulted in nearly 13,800 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations

“DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators work hard each day to serve their communities, protect our precious natural resources, and safeguard public health, while ensuring those who break the state’s stringent Environmental Conservation Laws are held accountable,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “In partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement, DEC looks forward to continuing to support the work our ECOs perform in every corner of New York.”

DEC and USFWS Join Forces in ‘Operation Sky Buster’
In mid-December, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) joined forces to conduct an extensive four-day waterfowl hunting enforcement operation called ‘Operation Sky Buster.’ Utilizing the combined enforcement power of 36 ECOs and 16 USFWS agents, Officers targeted waterfowl hunting violations in the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes areas of DEC Regions 7, 8, and 9.

“Over those four days, we were able to talk with 323 hunters and address a total of 114 violations,” said Region 8 Captain Powell. “Keeping in mind that this is a small snapshot of a very long season, I’d say this detail with our federal partners at USFWS was a huge success and highlights the enforcement and educational opportunities present during the waterfowl season.”

Region 9 Captain VerHague said, “ECOs work hard throughout the season and all year long to enforce safe hunting practices and ensure the laws protecting our state’s natural resources are upheld. While violations do occur, we thank those who conscientiously follow New York’s hunting regulations and play an essential role in sharing the traditions of safety, responsibility, and conservation with the next generation of hunters.”

Eric Marek, Northeast Region’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement, said, “State and federal hunting regulations play a critical role in sustaining healthy wildlife populations. During this joint operation, state and federal law enforcement officials worked together to address current hunting violations and educated hundreds of waterfowl hunters about the importance of preventing future hunting infractions. The success of this initiative exemplifies the benefits of having strong relationships with local communities and our law enforcement partners. By working together, we can help preserve our nation’s wildlife and wild places for future generations.”

Notable violations included taking waterfowl with toxic shot, hunting before and after the legal shooting time, and harvesting over the limit, as well as many licensing infractions. General waterfowl hunting regulations and information can be found on the DEC website.

Flood Rescue – Richmond County
On Dec. 23, while patrolling Richmond County, ECO Pansini and ECO Trainee Broughton responded to reports of a driver who attempted to drive through a flooded section of roadway along Arthur Kill Road on Staten Island, but became trapped inside their vehicle. Officer Pansini, a member of New York State’s Flood Incident Strike Team, assessed the scene and waded into the water with hip-waders and a catch pole for safety. The ECO helped rescue the driver from the vehicle and lead him to safety before turning things over to EMS crews at the scene. There were no other occupants in the vehicle and no serious injuries reported.

ECO stands next to a car in knee-deep water during flooding
ECO Pansini helps rescue driver from flood waters in Richmond County

Short Lobster and Untagged Oysters – Queens and Kings Counties
On Dec. 24, ECOs Currey, Keegan, and Kortz visited a supermarket in Queens for an inspection. The Officers issued the store a Notice of Violation after observing 128 undersized lobsters in a tank. Two days later, ECOs Veloski and Rappold received a complaint about undersized lobsters offered for sale at a market in Brooklyn. The Officers arrived and discovered 245 lobsters below legal size and 141 untagged oysters. ECOs issued a Notice of Violation to the market for various offenses and donated the lobsters to a food pantry in New York City.

ECO measures fish at fish market
ECOs inspect fish markets in New York City

ECO holds lobster and measures its back
ECO Rappold measures lobster found at fish market

POP! Corn – Suffolk County
On Dec. 28, ECOs DellaRocco and Zullo heard gunshots in the distance while on patrol in Suffolk County. After finding the location where the shots originated, the two Officers observed individuals hunting waterfowl and conducted a compliance check. The hunters admitted to taking multiple Canada geese in the area and the ECOs found corn scattered in front of a hunting blind and within decoys on the property. The Officers issued eight tickets to three defendants for hunting migratory game birds over bait, illegal take of wildlife, and hunting without a signed duck stamp. The ECOs seized five Canada geese as evidence.

ECO kneels in a field next to some decoy geese
ECO Zullo with decoys and corn in Suffolk County

Not a Happy New Year for Poachers – Westchester County
On Jan. 2, while on patrol, ECOs Tompkins and Wamsley spotted numerous people fishing from shore in the village of Croton-on-Hudson. From a distance, Officer Tompkins observed anglers catching striped bass without releasing the fish and approached the fishing groups with Officer Wamsley to check for licenses and illegal fish. The ECOs discovered multiple striped bass in bags and fish parts discarded on shore. The Officers issued 16 tickets to anglers for fishing without a Marine Registration, targeting striped bass out of season, possessing striped bass out of season, and discarding fish parts within 100 feet of shore. They seized 14 striped bass and donated them to a local zoo. The cases are pending in the Village Court.

Two ECOs stand next to several large fish on the pavement
ECOs Wamsley and Tompkins with striped bass taken out of season

ECO Wing Receives 2022 NWTF Officer of the Year Award
On Jan. 7, ECO Ryan Wing received the 2022 National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. The award is presented to an Officer who brings to conclusion a substantial case related to fish and wildlife or makes significant efforts to protect natural resources and educate the public. Other considerations include professionalism, dependability, and investigative skills.

ECO Wing has been an Officer for almost six years. He started his career in Nassau County and worked there for a little over two years before settling in Chenango County where he has gained a reputation for being a motivated and tenacious ECO. In early 2022, Officer Wing successfully brought charges against an evasive turkey poacher who faced several charges and eventually pleaded guilty and paid $1,000 in fines. In the same year, he investigated a complaint of unlawful solid waste dumping in the town of Norwich that resulted in the responsible party paying more than $12,000 in fines. ECO Wing also successfully investigated cases involving timber theft and the illegal take of freshwater fish. DEC congratulates ECO Wing on this honor.

ECOs stand with large wooden american flag
ECO Wing receives NWTF Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award

Patrolling the Winter Games – Essex County
Thirty-five ECOs are helping protect public safety during the FISU World University Games, an 11-day competition and celebration of international university sports and culture. The Officers reported to the Olympic Center the weekend before the games started and continue to provide security at the venue, both on foot and utilizing drones. Thousands of student athletes from more than 50 countries are competing in 12 different sports.

ECOs stand behind people on skis during winter games
ECOs provide security at FISU World University Games in Lake Placid

ECO and K9 stand on the ice rink during winter games
ECO Schneller and his partner K9 Benny are all smiles while patrolling the FISU World University Games in Lake Placid

NY state police, moose mascot, and an ECO pose for a picture during the winter games
New York State Police Zone Sergeant Barlow and ECO Clemens pose with mascot Adirondack Mac

To contact an ECO to report an environmental crime or to report an incident, call 1-844-DEC-ECOS for 24-hour dispatch or email central.dispatch@dec.ny.gov (for non-urgent violations).


Author: Harlem Valley News