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, 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:

Youth Ice Fishing Clinic – Oneida County

On Feb. 6, ECOs Shana Hutton and Chrisman Starczek helped 100 fourth-grade students from city of Rome elementary schools on Lake Delta learn how to ice fish. The event was organized by Melissa O’Rourke, a physical education teacher at Rome Free Academy (RFA). O’Rourke is the coordinator for Camp CEAL, a high school elective for students to learn leadership skills through outdoor activities. The ECOs led a presentation on fish identification, fishing regulations, and ice safety. After that, the officers, with the help of RFA teachers and Camp CEAL students, assisted the fourth graders in setting up tip-ups and jigging rods. For most of the students, it was their first time spending the day on a frozen lake. The students got to see about 20 tip-up flags fly into the air as Yellow Perch and Northern Pike were landed and later returned to the lake.

The Wolf of East 15th Street – Kings County

On Feb. 7, ECOs Ryan Grogan and Joshua Harvey concluded and investigation and seized a Grey Wolf pelt rug from an individual that had listed the item for sale on Craigslist. ECO Grogan had been in contact with the seller for more than a month in an attempt to arrange a meeting, but the seller canceled multiple times. After one last effort, the seller agreed to meet in Kings County, but only if they could meet within the hour. With no time to change into plain clothes, ECO Grogan covered his uniform with a civilian jacket and was dropped off a few blocks away from the meeting location by ECO Harvey. ECO Grogan met the seller, who presented the wolf pelt and offered it for the sale price of $2,000. ECO Harvey then pulled up in a patrol car, the officers identified themselves, and the pelt was seized from the surprised seller. A Notice of Violation was issued to the seller for the felony sale of endangered species or parts thereof, and the case will be handled by DEC legal staff.

Pheasant Seizure – Suffolk County

On Feb. 9, ECOs Nicholas Nicholas and Emma Carpenter responded to a complaint from the Suffolk County SPCA regarding a pheasant illegally possessed at a residence in the town of Islip, where SPCA had executed a search warrant with the Suffolk County Police Department earlier that day. When the ECOs arrived, they found a caged pheasant in the backyard surrounded by dozens of caged roosters, hens, and various domesticated animals. The ECOs took several photos, and the pheasant was positively identified by DEC Wildlife staff as a melanistic mutant ringneck pheasant. The property owner was issued one ticket for unlawful possession of game/wildlife by the officers. The pheasant was seized and turned over to the Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center Animal Preserve. In addition to the ECL charge, the Suffolk County SPCA charged the owner with four violations of NYS Agriculture and Markets Law, including three misdemeanors related to rooster fighting.

Crabs and Clams on Planes – Queens County

On the evening of Feb. 10, ECO Dan Plows was contacted by U.S. Customs agricultural specialists concerning a shipment of 30 Chinese mitten crabs confiscated earlier that day from a passenger arriving by air from China at JFK Airport. Chinese mitten crabs are a highly invasive species that will destroy native crab ecosystems and are currently establishing a foothold in the Hudson River. The crabs are illegal to possess, buy, or sell in New York State. ECO Plows met with the agricultural specialists at JFK to take possession of the mitten crabs and obtain the individual’s information. Later that night, ECO Plows received another call from the agricultural specialists regarding 6.6 pounds of blood clams that a different individual was attempting to import from China, also by plane. Blood clams are illegal to possess, buy, or sell due to being harvested from uncertified waters and the risk of the clams carrying diseases and bacteria, including hepatitis A. On Feb. 11, ECO Plows and ECO Connor Dodge contacted the owner of the mitten crabs and interviewed him. The subject was issued a summons for a violation of 6NYCRR 44.6, possession of mitten crabs returnable to Queens County Court. Later that day, ECOs Plows and Dodge contacted the other individual about the blood clams and arranged an interview. She admitted to bringing the blood clams into the country and was issued a summons for a violation of ECL 13-0309.1(b), possession of shellfish from uncertified waters, returnable to Queens County Court. All of the illegally imported crabs and clams were destroyed.

Three Men in a “Pickerel” – Schenectady County

On Feb. 11, ECO Jason DeAngelis observed three men with a large number of undersized pickerel splayed out on the ice on Mariaville Lake in the town of Duanesburg. As ECO DeAngelis headed out onto the lake to check the men’s fishing licenses, the men began pushing the fish back down into the ice fishing holes. ECO DeAngelis quickly found that the men were in possession of 69 fish over the daily catch limit, and 31 fish shorter than the legal length. DeAngelis charged the three men with multiple violations and released the fish that were still alive back into the lake.