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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, 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 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:

The Ivory Cats of Queens – Queens County
On July 5, ECO Joshua Harvey found an ivory bracelet detailed with cat carvings being sold online for $400. After communicating with the seller about the authenticity of the piece, the two agreed to meet at the defendant’s antique shop in Long Island City to complete the sale. On July 8, ECO Harvey arrived at the shop in plainclothes with ECO Ryan Grogan waiting down the street in uniform. ECO Harvey engaged the shop owner in conversation about his interest in ivory pieces and the shop owner told Harvey he had more pieces available. The shop owner returned with a box containing 19 additional ivory pieces. After inspecting the pieces and confirming their authenticity, ECO Harvey offered to purchase all 20 ivory pieces. The shop owner determined the total value to be $2,000. ECO Harvey told the shop owner he needed to get additional money to purchase the pieces, but would return shortly. ECO Harvey met ECO Grogan to explain the sale and then returned to the shop. When the offer of sale had been made and a receipt was given, ECO Grogan arrived in uniform, confiscated the ivory, and issued two summonses for illegal sale of ivory and illegal commercialization of wildlife along with a Notice of Violation, giving the shop owner the opportunity to settle the case administratively with DEC.

Nuisance Trapper Faces Multiple Charges – Chemung and Chenango County
In early July, ECO John Lifrieri received a call from a certified nuisance trapper that another nuisance trapper from Tioga County had left squirrel traps at one of his customer’s homes and had not returned to check or retrieve them. ECO Lifrieri confirmed that the nuisance trapper hadn’t returned to the residence since May, and had left two cage traps in different locations of the house. Further investigation determined that the trapper had not held a valid nuisance license since 2015, and has a history of violations with DEC. ECO Lifrieri discovered that ECO Stan Winnick from Tioga County had dealt with this business in late June for similar issues in a different location. Working together, ECOs Lifrieri and Winnick located the nuisance trapper and issued him numerous summonses for illegally taking and possessing wildlife, commercially trapping without a license, failing to tag a trap, and multiple counts of failing to check traps in both the village of Oxford and the town of Big Flats. In addition to dealing with DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement, the business has faced violations from the New York Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. DEC’s Special Licensing Unit has denied the company a renewal of its nuisance wildlife control operating license, as well.

Sportsmen Education in Manhattan- New York County
On July 8, ECOs Ryan Grogan and Joshua Harvey spoke at a DEC-organized Sportsmen Education Course in Manhattan. DEC hosts Sportsmen Education Courses across the state to educate residents about hunting safety and New York’s hunting regulations. The New York City event was organized for a group of Chinese speakers and included a Cantonese interpreter. The ECOs spoke to the group about the safe and ethical methods of hunting and answered questions about hunting regulations. The officers also spoke to the group about DLE’s role in outdoor sportmanship and where to find regulations for specific areas of the state. The group was enthusiastic, asking questions, and showing a great eagerness to enjoy the state’s hunting resources.

Batteries Left on the Sidewalk – Putnam County
On July 11, ECO Aaron Bonilla was conducting a compliance check at a dry cleaning shop when he noticed a number of lead-acid batteries on the sidewalk outside of a nearby auto parts store. The employees of the auto parts store did not make any attempt to remove the batteries for proper storage to avoid leaking into the environment. ECO Bonilla spoke to the shop manager who advised him that the storage of the batteries on the sidewalk was normal practice, as staff were busy answering phone calls all day. ECO Bonilla issued the company a summons for the improper storage of lead-acid batteries, returnable to the Town of Southeast Court, and advised the employees of the proper and legal handling of used batteries.

Clamming in Uncertified Waters – Nassau County
On July 13, ECOs Evan Laczi and Mike Unger were headed to meet FDA and DEC shellfish inspectors by boat to address multiple complaints received over the previous week of people taking clams from uncertified underwater lands when the officers encountered two men clamming in the town of Oyster Bay. The ECOs found the men to be in possession of 19 bags of illegally taken clams. The pair were charged with possession of and taking shellfish from uncertified lands, as well as multiple commercial shellfishing offenses. During the officers’ inspection of their boat, multiple navigation law violations were found, as well. The two men will appear in Nassau First District Court in September, and the clams were returned to the water.

Turtles for Sale – Oswego County
On July 13, ECO Greg Maneeley investigated a report of a person offering native baby snapping turtles for sale in the town of Albion. Tracking the source of a Craigslist ad, Officer Maneeley successfully located the individual offering the protected wildlife for sale. The female subject was ticketed for the unlawful possession of wildlife and unlawful commercialization of wildlife. The turtles were seized and released back into a suitable wild habitat.