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.”

Undersized Scallops in Peconic Bay – Suffolk County

On Jan. 31, while on boat patrol in Peconic Bay completing U.S. Food and Drug Administration shellfish checks, ECOs McGhee, Zullo, Della Rocco, and Cacciola observed a boat with scallop dredges on board. The Officers caught up to the vessel and two ECOs boarded the boat. The operator claimed to be a commercial fisherman catching scallops, but a full compliance check determined the commercial harvester had multiple violations. ECOs ticketed the subject for untagged shellfish, lack of a marine sanitation device on board, failure to maintain complete and accurate records, and possession of undersized scallops (40 percent of his catch). Officers seized the undersized scallops and returned them to the water.

ECOs on boat near dock during fishing violation
ECOs McGhee and Zullo address fishing violations in Peconic Bay

ECO uses a tool to measure a scallop
Measuring undersized scallop

Along the Milky Way – Orange County

In early February, ECOs in Orange County received a call from the New York State Thruway Authority reporting a tandem trailer carrying milk burst into flames on the side of the highway. Officers responded to the area due to concerns the milk released from the trailer could impact the nearby Ramapo River, a source of public drinking water. The driver was not injured and the milk did not reach the river. Dairy products like milk can break down in the water and result in a reaction that removes much-needed oxygen, potentially killing fish and other aquatic species. It is believed the fire started from a brake overheating in one of the trailers. ECOs worked with New York State Police and the Thruway Authority to ensure no environmental damage to the surrounding area resulted from the fire.

ECO, state police, and employees wearing bright safety vests investigate site where milk truck caught fire
ECOs, New York State Police, and Thruway Authority employees assess damage from a milk truck fire on the Thruway in Orange County

Medical Emergency – Orange County

While returning from a training exercise on Feb. 10, ECO Parker received reports from several motorists about an erratic driver on Route 17K in the town of Montgomery. Officer Parker located the vehicle stopped in a traffic lane and obstructing traffic flow. The ECO approached the driver’s side and discovered the operator unconscious behind the wheel. ECO Parker managed to wake the driver and help him park his vehicle on the shoulder of the road. The Officer interviewed the operator and discovered he was suffering from a diabetic emergency. He then contacted Orange County 911 and requested EMS and a second police unit for additional medical assistance. Officer Parker also phoned the driver’s wife to help locate her husband’s glucose tablets. The Town of Montgomery Ambulance and Police arrived a short time later and rendered further aid.

What a Discovery – Suffolk County

On Feb. 14, ECOs Kaufherr and Zullo received a report of a large snake, approximately 12 feet in length, on the side of the road in the town of Medford. The Officers arrived and observed the reptile curled up in a ball. A closer look revealed it to be deceased. The ECOs removed the snake from the roadway to appropriately dispose of it. The reticulated python measured 14 feet in length. It is illegal to keep these types of snakes as pets in New York and they may only be possessed by holders of a Dangerous Animal License. An investigation into the owner of the snake is ongoing.

ECO and vehicle near a large dead snake on the ground. The snake is nearly as long as the vehicle
ECO Kaufherr with deceased 14-foot reticulated python

K9 CJ Does it Again – Sullivan County

On Feb. 14, ECOs Wood and Doroski responded to a complaint in Cochecton where a resident reported people discharging firearms within 500 feet of her residence without her consent. With the homeowner’s approval, Officer Wood searched the property and deployed K9 CJ to detect burned gun powder. The trained dog located a spent 12-gauge shell casing within 500 feet of the caller’s residence. The Officers later identified the suspects and took enforcement action. K9 CJ was then rewarded for another successful day on the job.

red shell casing and orange K9 ECO leash in some dried grass
Shell casing discovered during investigation in Sullivan County

K9 ECO in corn field where shell casing was found
K9 CJ discovers shell casing during firearms investigation

Can’t Dump That Here – Ulster County

On Feb. 20, ECO Walraven ticketed contractors in Ulster County for unlawfully disposing solid waste in the town of Saugerties in January. ECOs began investigating the site after receiving several phone calls from the public reporting a large amount of trash dumped on a property near Hommelville and Mt. Airy roads. During the investigation, Officer Walraven discovered several pieces of mail with the address of a local resident. The ECO interviewed the resident and learned the home was recently taken over by a bank through an eviction process and contractors visited the site to clean it out. Working with the bank and the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office Civil Division, ECO Walraven identified the contractors involved and issued them a ticket for the unlawful disposal of solid waste, which carries fines of $1,500 to $15,000 per day. ECO Walraven directed the contractors to clean up the trash immediately and dispose of it at a permitted solid waste management facility. The case is scheduled to be arraigned in the Town of Saugerties Court in the coming weeks.

Large pile of debris and black garbage bags filled with trash in the woods
Solid waste unlawfully disposed in Saugerties

Catch of the Day on the Hudson River – Saratoga County

On Feb. 21, ECO Klein continued his investigation into people keeping fish in an area of the Hudson River designated for catch and release. That section of the river received that designation due to historic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) contamination in the area, making the fish unsafe for consumption. Officer Klein made his way onto the ice and noticed two people fishing. The ECO approached the anglers, asked to see what they had in their buckets, and discovered a total of 131 panfish. The ECOs ticketed the anglers for keeping fish in the catch-and-release section of the Hudson River, returned the living fish to the water, and seized the rest as evidence.

Pile of dead, illegally caught fish on ice
Seized panfish

New Officers Take to the Field – New York City

DEC Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) Director Przyklek recently met with DLE’s newest Police Officers, assigned to DEC Region 2 in New York City. Director Przyklek congratulated the new ECOs on successfully completing the Department of Criminal Justice Service mandated Field Training program. The Officers graduated from DEC’s 23rd Basic School for Uniformed Officers on Dec. 9, 2022, and were required to complete 350 hours of on-the-job training under the scrutiny of highly qualified Field Training Officers. The new ECOs performed all aspects of police work and were evaluated. While in New York City, Director Przyklek laid out plans for future environmental and air quality enforcement details to be undertaken by the newly qualified ECOs patrolling the five boroughs.

Group photo of ECOs with NYC skyline in the background
Captain Komonchak (front row, center left) and Director Przyklek (front row, center right) with New York City team of ECOs

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