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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 (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:

Injured Hawk – Rensselaer County
On March 12, ECO Wes Leubner received a call from a resident in the town of Brunswick regarding a distressed red-tailed hawk on the ground in her backyard and unable to fly. ECO Leubner captured the bird using a blanket, a large cardboard box, and assistance from the property owners. The officer transported the hawk, which had a severely fractured wing, to the Slingerlands Animal Hospital for treatment, where the hawk later succumbed to its injuries. Red-tailed hawks are one of New York State’s most wide-ranging raptor species, observable just about anywhere from Long Island to Buffalo, and often perched in trees bordering open or grassy areas.

Heavy Duty Trucks Face Heavy Duty Fines – Bronx County
On March 13, ECOs in the Bronx conducted a truck detail specifically targeting heavy duty diesel vehicles (HDDV), checking to ensure these vehicles were following emissions standards, as well as targeting fluid leaks. The detail was a joint operation with DEC’s air quality staff, the State Department of Transportation, NYC Sanitation Police, and the New York Police Department Traffic Unit. Of the approximately 500 commercial vehicles inspected at the checkpoint, nine were placed out of service due to unsafe practices and six were towed due to faulty brakes and steering equipment. A total of 54 summonses were issued for return in Bronx Criminal Court later this year.

This Was No St. Patrick’s Prank – Warren County
On March 15, ECO Steve Gonyeau and Lt. Ben Bramlage responded to assist DEC Spills responder Steve Paszko with a report of bright green liquid flooding a yard, running into the street, and flooding a nearby parking lot in the town of Queensbury. The green liquid was coming from a neighboring property, carried by heavy snowmelt. The officers discovered that a local paint dealer had sold a large industrial paint mixing machine to a scrap hauler, who had dismantled it outdoors several weeks earlier. The machine contained a highly concentrated green pigment powder, which had spilled onto the ground. When the combination of rainfall and snowmelt mixed with the powder, it turned the water green. The bright liquid was contained to the soil and did not reach any storm drains or water bodies. DEC called in a spill response contractor to remove as much of the runoff and saturated soil as possible. The investigation of this incident is continuing.

Illegal Ivory is Not an Antique – New York County
On March 15, ECOs Joshua Harvey and Ryan Grogan were in plainclothes when they visited an antique shop on the Upper East Side and found two Buddha statues made of elephant ivory offered for sale. After Harvey expressed interest in the pieces, the shop owner offered an ivory wizard statue and two carved tusk pieces. ECO Harvey told the shop owner that he would return the following day. On March 16, ECO Harvey returned to the shop while ECO Grogan waited close by in uniform. After ECO Harvey offered $6,245 for all of the ivory pieces, ECO Grogan entered the shop, confiscated the ivory, and issued two summonses for illegal sale of ivory and commercialization of wildlife.

It is illegal to sell or attempt to sell products made in whole, or in part, from endangered and/or threatened species in the State of New York without obtaining a license. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo introduced and signed a new law in 2014 that banned the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhinoceros horns and strengthened the criminal and civil penalties for buyers and sellers because their actions are contributing to the endangerment of elephant and rhinoceros populations worldwide.

Forensic Files, Wildlife Edition – Delaware County
On Dec. 8, 2018, ECO Nathan Doig and the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department responded to a verbal dispute over a dead deer at a residence in the town of Walton. When they arrived, one subject had already left, taking the deer with him. The officers interviewed several people at the residence who said they were not involved, but provided a license plate of the vehicle. ECO Doig gathered DNA evidence and photographed a spot where a deer had been killed. The Walton Police Department located the pickup truck about an hour later. There was nothing in the back of the truck and it appeared to have been freshly cleaned, but ECO Doig located two specks of blood near the tailgate. ECO Doig collected those for DNA testing. The owner of the truck claimed the blood was from a buck his brother had shot several days prior. ECO Doig submitted the DNA samples from the original scene and the swabs from the truck to DEC’s wildlife pathology lab. The results came back in early March as being from the same female deer. On March 16, ECO Doig interviewed the truck owner again, armed with the DNA results. The subject admitted to the illegal take of a doe deer without a permit and was charged with a misdemeanor in Walton Town Court. The successful conclusion of this case is the result of diligent police work by ECO Doig, Delaware Sheriff’s, and Walton Police combined with scientific support from the pathology lab.

Illegal Rhino Skull – Greene County
On March 25, ECOs and Investigators with the Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit conducted an undercover operation into the sale of a Black Rhino skull. A Greene County man who sold the skull to an undercover investigator was arrested and charged with illegal commercialization of wildlife. He is due back in court next month to answer to the charges. Black Rhinos are listed as critically endangered and it is illegal to sell any part of them under the New York State Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). It is estimated that somewhere between 5,000 and 5,500 Black Rhinos are left in the wild. The local case remains under investigation.