DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late January to Early February

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:

Tidal Wetlands Permit Violation – Richmond County

On Jan. 26, ECO Michael Wozniak met with George Stadnik of DEC’s Marine Resources to view a proposed building site along tidal wetlands on Staten Island. The owner of the property has plans and permits to build along the waterfront. However, after walking the property, the ECO noted that there had been several violations of the permit conditions. DEC issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the property owner for clearing tidal wetlands shrub vegetation along the agreed upon buffer zone.

Remnants of bush clearing in a tidal wetland
Unpermitted brush clearing within the tidal wetland

Out of Season Stripers – Rockland County

On Jan. 29, ECOs Melissa Burgess and Corey Hornicek patrolled Piermont Pier in Rockland County after receiving an anonymous complaint that striped bass were being kept during the closed season. Upon their arrival, the ECOs observed four male subjects fishing from shore. ECO Hornicek interviewed two individuals who both possessed valid fishing licenses and found nothing amiss, while ECO Burgess interviewed the other two subjects, learning that one had never possessed a fishing license and the other had an expired license. Both subjects claimed to have only been fishing for 20 minutes with no luck. After surveying the area, four illegal stripers were recovered. The subject with the expired fishing license admitted to catching one striper he had hidden under the ice. The subject without a license admitted that he had caught three stripers. The four striped bass were seized and the men were issued three tickets returnable to the Village of Piermont Court.

Doe Taken Out of Season – Erie County

On Jan. 30, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement was contacted by a man who witnessed two men shoot a deer out of a pickup truck in the town of Concord. A doe carcass was left about 60 yards from the road where they had shot. ECOs Timothy Machnica and Mark Mazurkiewicz arrived on scene and located the deer carcass and an open can of beer. The ECOs’ investigation led to two town of Concord men, who initially denied involvement. Two days later, both suspects came forward and gave statements to the officers, admitting that they had shot the deer. Each of the subjects was charged with illegally taking a wild deer, taking wildlife with the aid of a motor vehicle, taking wildlife from a public highway, possessing a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, and discharging a firearm on a public highway. The charges are returnable in Concord Justice Court on March 5, where both men face possible penalties of up to $5,375 and revocation of their hunting privileges.

A illegally killed doe on the snowy ground
Illegally killed doe

Junkyard Piles and Leaking Parts – Westchester County

On Jan. 31, ECOs Dustin Dainack, Craig Tompkins, Chad Eyler, Kevin Wamsley, and Aaron Bonilla, along with Lt. Meg Filmer and members of the Mount Vernon Police and fire departments, conducted a saturation detail focusing on auto repair shops and dismantlers. At one of the sites the team inspected, a vehicle dismantling yard, ECOs found mountains of engines and transmissions leaking oil, huge piles of lead acid batteries, waste tires, burn barrels of trash next to oil and gas tanks, and cars stacked haphazardly on one another. The ground was caked in mud and oil. ECO Dainack issued five summonses to the business for failing to store lead acid batteries as required, failing to collect, store, and treat vehicle fluids as required, depositing noisome and unwholesome substances on a highway, open burning of solid waste, and failure to prevent solid waste residuals from migrating off site. In addition, the City of Mount Vernon Fire Department issued multiple fire code violations. ECO Dainack and DEC staff will revisit the site to ensure it is cleaned and brought to compliance.

ECO looking over an auto dismantling facility
ECO Wamsley looking over the auto dismantling facility

More than Just Antlers – Richmond County

On Feb. 4, ECOs Taylor Della Rocco and Mary Grose responded to a call from a member of the public who had been hunting for shed deer antlers with a friend on Staten Island when they found a camouflage blanket wrapped around a box of weapons hidden in the woods. ECOs Della Rocco and Grose located the plastic box, which was painted tan and wrapped in a camouflage blanket. It contained a paintball gun, multiple air-powered firearms, a small hand-held crossbow, a flare gun, several homemade knives, switchblades, and box of .22 caliber rifle rounds. The ECOs called the New York Police Department and turned the weapons over to be itemized and secured as evidence. The ECOs suspect that the owner of the items may have been hunting illegally in the area. The investigation will continue.

Plastic bin containing various firearms and weapons.
Weapons found hidden in the woods on Staten Island

Too Much Luck Fishing – Essex County

On Feb. 6, ECO Jeff Hovey was patrolling ice fishing activity on Lincoln Pond in the town of Elizabethtown when he spoke to a fisherman who had a large German Shepherd with him on the ice. At first, all seemed to check out. The fisherman had a valid license, was using legal tip-ups, and showed ECO Hovey several northern pike he had caught within the daily possession and size limit. The subject claimed that these were the only fish he had caught. However, ECO Hovey heard flopping sounds coming from a bucket in the back of the man’s UTV. Inside the bucket the ECO discovered a largemouth bass and several northern pike. The final tally of the fisherman’s catch was two yellow perch, eight northern pike, and one largemouth bass, resulting in ECO Hovey issuing the fisherman appearance tickets for taking bass out of season and three fish over the five-fish possession limit for northern pike.

Fish on the ice with a dog standing near them.
Too many pike, one illegal bass, and one large dog

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