The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Division of Law Enforcement enforces the 71 chapters of New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State. In 2021, 282 Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) and Investigators across the state responded to 26,207 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 11,562 tickets or arrests for violations ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.
“DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and Investigators are on the front lines each and every day protecting our natural resources by upholding New York’s environmental laws and regulations and safeguarding public health,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “From ensuring hunters and anglers follow rules and regulations afield and on the water, to sustaining partnerships with local law enforcement agencies investigating crimes that include solid waste dumping and air emissions violations, ECOs and Investigators are on patrol, ready to serve their communities. Each year brings new challenges, and fortunately, these Officers and Investigators are expertly trained to perform their duties with persistence, integrity, and good judgment, as they’ve done for over a century.”
Long Island Sound Patrol – Westchester County
On Aug. 21, ECOs Tompkins and Helmeyer patrolled the Long Island Sound off the coast of Westchester County and checked six boats fishing on the water. During the checks, the Officers located 50 porgy less than the 10-inch minimum size and one out-of-season blackfish. Blackfish season on the Long Island Sound does not open until Oct. 11. Officers issued six tickets to five individuals for possession of undersize fish and possession of fish during the closed season.
Approximately one month later on the Long Island Sound, patrols by ECOs Tompkins, Wamsley, Johnson, Read, and Franz resulted in several fishing violations. On Sept. 4, the Officers patrolled Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and New Rochelle and observed anglers taking and keeping undersized and over-the limit fish, as well as fishing without a Marine Registry. The ECOs issued 29 citations for various violations and seized 54 undersized porgy. ECOs released several fish back into the water and donated the remainder to local wildlife rehabilitators.
Jones Beach Patrols Net Fishing Violators – Nassau County
ECO-led fish checks at Jones Beach in Nassau County resulted in several anglers ticketed for fishing violations. On Aug. 28, at the Jones Beach Coast Guard Station, ECO Pabes observed the town of Hempstead Bay Constables enforcing shellfish regulations at the nearby Short Beach, which is closed for shellfish harvesting during this time of year. As the Bay Constables wrapped up their patrol, Officer Pabes spotted a subject standing awkwardly behind some tall grass, watching the constables leave. Once they were out of sight, the subject collected heavy bags from the vegetation. The ECO then saw the same subject speaking to another person who went right back to digging for clams. Officer Pabes notified the constables who returned to the area. The anglers tried to make a quick getaway to the nearby parking lot, but Officer Pabes intercepted them. The Officers located three bags of approximately 500 hard shell clams in the tall grass. ECO Pabes issued the subjects tickets for taking shellfish from uncertified waters, returnable to Nassau First District Court.
On Sept. 3, New York State Park Police notified Officer Pabes after they encountered three anglers with a seine net along Bay Parkway. The men fled into the bushes when approached. ECOs Pabes and Perkins arrived after Park Police located the fishermen. The Officers inspected the buckets and found numerous small bluefish amongst the spearing. The Officers issued tickets to the anglers for taking over-the-limit bluefish and taking food fish by commercial means. Two of the men also received tickets for not having a Marine Registration. All tickets are returnable to Nassau District Court.
Church Mouse? I Mean, Skunk! – Cattaraugus County
On Aug. 22, ECO Powers received a phone call from a concerned employee at the First Baptist Church in Olean who said she noticed a skunk had fallen into the window well underneath a large stained glass window behind the building. Officer Powers responded and noticed the window well was approximately five feet deep. To avoid jumping into the deep well with a skunk, Powers grabbed the snow shovel he carries with him year-round for wildlife and attempted to scoop the skunk for about 30 minutes before getting it into the shovel. The skunk ran off into the bushes safely.
Special Olympics Fundraiser – Clinton County
On Aug. 23, ECO Lacroix, K9 Web, and Lieutenant Younglove attended a fundraising event for the North Country Special Olympics. Athletes and Officers assisted waitstaff with taking orders, delivering meals, and greeting diners. Multiple law enforcement agencies from across Clinton, Franklin, and Essex counties helped with the successful event that will help send athletes to summer, fall, and winter games across New York State.
Dumpster Bandit Caught Red-Handed – Nassau County
While patrolling Bay Park in the town of Hempstead on the evening of Aug. 24, ECO Pabes observed a commercial vehicle backed up to Nassau County dumpsters in an unauthorized area. Officer Pabes approached the vehicle and witnessed a subject in the back actively unloading construction debris into the dumpster. The ECO also observed two other dumpsters filled with similar construction debris and questioned the subject who claimed he was given permission to use the dumpsters by a friend. After checking with the property owner, ECO Pabes determined the subject was not authorized to use the dumpsters and issued a Notice of Violation for illegal disposal of solid waste. The subject later produced a dump receipt for the debris cleanup, signed a consent order, and paid a $500 penalty.
In Suffolk County, another dumping case involving the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission resulted in a larger fine. The commission received information about illegal dumping on Long Island Avenue in Yaphank. The Suffolk County Sherriff’s Department traced the evidence to an address in Ronkonkoma. The homeowner at the adress admitted to hiring someone to clean out an overcrowded home. ECOs joined other members of law enforcement in setting up a meeting with the contractor, who admitted to illegally dumping to avoid disposal fees. ECO Cacciola issued a Notice of Violation and the illegal dumper was ordered to clean up the site, properly dispose of the materials, and pay a $1,500 fine to DEC.
ECOs Help Secure Air Show – Orange County
ECOs teamed up with the Orange County Sheriffs and New York State Police to help with security at the New York State Air Show at the Orange County Airport. The Air Show, which ran from Aug. 26 to 28, featured aviators including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the third-oldest formal flying aerobic team in the world. The West Point Parachute team and other aviators also participated in the show, while ECOs patrolled the event on ATVs alongside State Police.
ECOs Attend Veteran and First Responder Suicide Awareness Event – Greene County
On Aug. 31, Lieutenant Glorioso, along with ECOs Baur, Smith, and Palmateer, attended the first annual Veteran and First Responder Suicide Awareness event. The event, held at Catskill Point in the village of Catskill and hosted by the Greene County Veterans Service Agency, showcased important information about services available to veterans and first responders struggling with mental health challenges and contemplating suicide. ECOs interacted with eventgoers and suggested outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, trapping, and boating as potential hobbies that improve overall health. They also familiarized the public with the role ECOs play each day in protecting New York State’s natural resources.
Hawk Rescue – Westchester County
On Sept. 7, ECO Franz received a call about an injured hawk located inside the fenced area of a soccer field in the town of Scarsdale. The Officer arrived at the location and discovered the fence was locked and observed the hawk in poor condition, lodged in the top of a garbage can. With the help of Westchester County Parks employees, the Officer gained entrance to the field and recovered the hawk. ECO Franz transported the juvenile red-tailed hawk to a local rehabilitator. The hawk’s condition has improved and the bird is expected to recover.
Bold Impersonation Leads to Criminal Charges – Cayuga County
On Sept. 9, Lieutenant Thomas received a call from a subject squirrel hunting with a group on Howland Island a few days earlier when they were approached by a man who identified himself as an undercover ECO. The man “checked” the group’s hunting licenses and firearms, took down their information, and proceeded to confiscate a .22 rifle before leaving the area. The leery hunters complied but managed to take a brief video of the subject. The ECO impersonator later emailed the group claiming the rifle was unlawful. Using the short video clip and the email address, Lt. Thomas was able to positively identify the subject as Zachary Harvey, 24, of Weedsport. Lieutenant Colesante and Lieutenant Thomas located the subject and took him into custody without incident. The Officers also recovered the stolen firearm. Harvey is charged with two counts of criminal impersonation, two counts of grand larceny, and one count of criminal possession of stolen property, all felonies. He is at the Cayuga County Jail until his arraignment. DEC’s enforcement investigation is ongoing.
DEC Division of Law Enforcement members involved in this case include: Lt. Thomas (R8); Lt. Colesante (R7); Lt. Stevens (R7 Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation/BECI); Lt. Didion (R8 BECI); Inv. Wojtkowiak (R8 BECI); Inv. Malone (R6 BECI); ECO Sincebaugh (R7); ECO Bobseine (R8); and ECO Prentice (R7).
Early Black Bear Season Enforcement – Delaware County
On Sept. 11, the second day of the early black bear hunting season, ECOs Doig and Woodin received information about a black bear possibly taken unlawfully on private property. The investigation led the Officers to a hunter who confirmed the owner of the property had given him permission to hunt there. However, evidence at the scene indicated the bear was taken over bait. New York State Environmental Conservation law prohibits the taking of black bear over bait, and the Officers issued a ticket to the hunter for unlawfully taking a black bear and hunting over a pre-established bait pile. The bear was confiscated and donated. All tickets are returnable to the Hamden Town Court.