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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:

Caught Two Times in a Week – Kings County
On July 29, ECOs Zachary Kochanowski and Joshua Jarecki conducted pesticides compliance checks in the Midwood area of Brooklyn. The ECOs located a landscaping business with workers actively applying pesticides with a backpack sprayer without the required permits. When the employees contacted the owner of the business with the ECOs present, he claimed that he had tried to go through the DEC’s licensing process but was unsuccessful, making it apparent to the officers that the owner knew he was in violation, yet continued with business as usual. Two tickets were issued for the violations. The following week on August 5, the same ECOs were patrolling Midwood when they observed two employees from the same landscaping business applying herbicide with a backpack sprayer and fungicide with a spreader. During the second inspection of the company, all pesticides in the van were in newly purchased bags and containers. ECOs seized the illegal pesticides, backpack sprayer, and spreader as evidence, and issued the company summonses for applying pesticides without a license and operating an unregistered pesticides business.

National Night Out – Queens County
On August 6, ECO Joshua Jarecki represented DEC at a “National Night Out” event hosted by the New York Police Department’s 113th Precinct in Queens. National Night Out is hosted by law enforcement, with multiple police agencies coming together to engage local communities. Officers meet face-to-face with neighborhood residents to discuss their responsibilities and hear residents’ concerns. The event also provides opportunities for youth to participate in various events supported by the police agencies. The local Fire Department of New York firehouse provided a barbeque for all attendees.

Fishing Without a License Leads to a Controlled Substance Arrest – Rockland County
On August 8, ECO Corey Hornicek was patrolling Harriman State Park when he observed five male subjects fishing from shore at Sabago Lake. As ECO Hornicek approached to ask if any of the subjects had fishing licenses, he smelled a strong odor of marijuana. One of the five individuals said that he had a fishing license, but it was in his car at the parking lot. The other individuals also claimed that their identification was in the parked car. ECO Hornicek asked the anglers to walk back to the parking lot and requested a nearby State Park Police unit to respond for assistance. At the parking lot, ECO Hornicek determined that none of the five had a valid fishing license. After a short interview, the Park Police Officer gained permission from the vehicle’s owner to search it and discovered a secret compartment in a rear wheel well containing alcoholic beverages, numerous $100 bills, and a vile of concentrated THC, a controlled substance in New York. The Park Police Officer arrested the owner of the car, charging him with several misdemeanors. ECO Hornicek issued tickets to all five subjects for fishing without a freshwater fishing license, returnable to the Town of Haverstraw Court.

Injured Owl Rescue – Sullivan County
On August 8, ECO Jon Walraven responded to a call from the New York State Police seeking an ECO to assist with locating and recovering an injured owl in Sullivan County. ECO Walraven located a Barred Owl with a severely injured left wing and unable to fly. The owl was safely captured, and ECO Walraven transported the bird to a local wildlife rehabilitator for treatment and recovery.

Hidden Trout Found by a DLE K9 – Sullivan County
On August 10, ECO Ricky Wood responded to Livingston Manor to investigate a complaint of a person fishing for trout with live bait and possibly keeping the trout illegally in the no-kill section of the Willowemoc Creek, which only allows artificial lures and catch-and-release fishing. The fisherman denied that he had caught any fish, but unbeknownst to him, the officer and K9 Deming observed him catch at least one trout. K9 Deming, who is trained in the detection of fish, located two trout that the fisherman had caught and unsuccessfully hidden in the bushes. He was issued tickets for fishing contrary to regulations in specially designated waters and taking protected fish except as permitted by law. Both tickets are returnable to the Town of Rockland Court.

Grilled Hawk – Genesee County
On August 10, ECO Gary Wilson was called to assist Trooper Andrea Muszynski with a live hawk lodged in the front grill of an SUV at the Pembroke Service Area off the New York State Thruway. The Red-tailed Hawk was stuck in the space between the SUV’s plastic front grill and radiator. The operator stated that he had seen the hawk on the side of the road but was unable to avoid the collision when it suddenly flew into his path. It took a group effort to control the hawk’s talons while breaking open the front grill to remove it. The bird was fully alert and in good condition after the extrication. ECO Wilson transported the hawk to a local rehabilitator, where it was examined by a veterinarian. The lucky bird was found to have no broken bones or other serious injuries and will be kept a few days for observation before being released back into the wild.

ATV and UTV Training – Warren County
On August 14, ECOs from Region 5 attended an ATV/UTV training course in Lake George focused on ATV/UTV nomenclature, basic maintenance, and riding techniques. The ECOs operated different models of ATVs and UTVs on courses designed to test their skills and handling of the machines. The training also included climbing and descending steep hills, traversing side hills, and crossing obstacles such as logs. These skills were combined at the end of the day when ECOs completed a long trail ride. Regular training is key to safely and effectively operating off-road equipment such as ATVs and UTVs.