DEC: Driver ticketed for strapping ATV to car’s roof

ALBANY, NY  —  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:

Unusual and Unsafe ATV Transport – Cortland County

ECO Lt. Mark Colesante stopped a vehicle on Aug. 31 that he observed transporting an ATV in an unusual way on Rt. 41A in the town of Homer. The driver had decided to transport the ATV by strapping it to the roof his four-door sedan. The operator was issued tickets for unsecured load and driving an overloaded vehicle.

Bobcat Rehabilitation – Dutchess County

On the evening of Aug. 23, ECO Zachary Crain received a call regarding a good Samaritan removing an injured bobcat from a roadway in East Fishkill. East Fishkill Police reported that the bobcat had been struck by a vehicle and the person had transported it to a nearby animal hospital only to discover that the animal hospital was closed. ECO Crain responded, took possession of the bobcat, and transported it to a licensed DEC wildlife rehabilitator. On Aug. 29, ECO Crain spoke with the rehabilitator, who reported that the female bobcat (estimated to be six months old) sustained a broken leg, which was surgically repaired. The young bobcat is expected to make a full recovery and will be released in a few weeks back to the area she was found.

Say “No” to Rolling Coal – Oswego County

ECO Dave Thomas led a focused, heavy-duty diesel vehicle enforcement operation in Oswego County during the month of August. “Rolling coal” is a slang term for deliberately modifying a diesel truck so that it emits a thick cloud of black smoke. Vehicle operators sometimes make these modifications to get attention or elicit a reaction, either positive or negative, from the public. This is generally done by removing the built-in emissions controls apparatuses or reprogramming the vehicle’s computer. Oswego County has a significant cluster of diesel vehicle operators who have made these unlawful modifications. During the month of August, ECO Thomas issued air quality tickets to 22 different vehicle owners for offenses such as removing emissions control apparatus, exhaust over opacity, refusal to submit to a roadside emissions test, excessive blue smoke, and leaking exhaust. ECO Thomas also issued five vehicle and traffic law tickets for associated traffic violations. The fines for the air quality violations are $700, or $150 if the truck is repaired within 30 days. Repeat offenders are required to pay a $1,300 fine if the vehicle is not repaired within 30 days. Diesel smoke is a major source of complaints to DEC, and vehicles with tampered emissions systems are not only an environmental threat but health studies show that exposure to diesel exhaust primarily affects the respiratory system and worsens asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and lung function. The New York State Department of Health includes smoking and idling diesel truck enforcement efforts by ECOs as one of their Asthma Prevention Environmental and Occupational Health Initiatives. Learn more at the Department of Health’s website.

Crabby Night in Jamaica Bay – Queens County

On Aug. 28, ECOs Connor Dodge and Daniel Plows conducted late night clamming and crabbing checks at low tide in Jamaica Bay, Queens. The evening started off slow with only three groups actively crabbing due to the sporadic rain and late low tides. ECO Dodge checked a group of three people leaving the bridge and discovered they had 36 crabs under the legal size out of their total catch of 75. Two of the individuals observed were issued a ticket for possessing blue claw crabs under the 4.5-inch size limit and the small crabs were returned to the water. Later, ECOs observed 15 people out in the water scooping crabs into their buckets. After about an hour, the ECOs developed a plan to nab them all. ECO Plows went into the water in plainclothes with a bucket and head lamp to blend in. He collected three groups of crabbers for ECO Dodge to inspect. While the ECOs were counting crabs, additional individuals exited the water. ECOs inspected their catch, as well, and found that all of them possessed undersized crabs over the limit of possession. In total, the ECOs counted approximately 700 blue claw crabs, of which 270 were under the size restriction and 400 were over the possession limit of the group. The late night patrol resulted in ECOs Dodge and Plows issuing 14 summonses returnable to Queens County court for possession of undersize and over the limit of blue claw crabs.

Firearms and Adult Beverages Don’t Mix – Onondaga County

On Sept. 2, ECO Don Damrath responded to Lakeshore Road in the town of Cicero to investigate a report of hunters shooting too close to homes while drinking alcoholic beverages. Upon his arrival, ECO Damrath observed two individuals wearing camouflage clothing sitting on shore behind a residence on Lakeshore Road. ECO Damrath waited until legal shooting hours ended and approached the hunters with Cicero Police Officer Eric Flansburg. The ECO spotted three empty cans of hard lemonade and one empty can of beer in the hunting blind. When questioned, both hunters admitted to drinking alcohol while hunting. The pair agreed to take a breathalyzer test administered by Flansburg. One hunter registered a .077 BAC, and the other blew a .044 BAC. Both hunters were charged in violation of ECL 11-1203(2) – hunting while impaired, a violation, and if found guilty, the two could face fines of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail.

ECOs Rescue and Save Two Adults and Child – Westchester County

On Sept. 8, ECOs Charles Eyler and Craig Tompkins were performing fishing license checks at the Annsville Preserve in Peekskill when they saw a canoe with three people tip over in the Annsville Creek. At first it appeared to be a playful mistake. The people were standing next to the canoe in the water. But upon hearing a distress whistle, the ECOs quickly headed to a kayak rental business on the other side of the creek and commandeered two kayaks. The officers paddled around the small peninsula, about a half a mile up the creek and under the bridge, where they found the inundated canoe. Inside, sitting in six inches of water was a shivering three-year-old boy. Both adults were still outside the canoe, chest deep in the cool water and unable to self-rescue. ECO Eyler got out of his kayak and into the water and placed the boy inside where it was dry. He hand-siphoned out enough water to get the two adults back into the canoe. Once all occupants were in, ECO Tompkins alerted other first responders and paddled back to retrieve his patrol vehicle. ECO Eyler walked the boats through the water and toward the shore line approximately 200 feet away. Once the boats were jettisoned on shore, ECO Eyler escorted the three people back to the kayak rental business, where they dried off and refused medical attention.

Illegal Dumpers Caught – Sullivan County

In late August, DEC received several phone calls about garbage dumped in the town of Rockland in the Willowemoc Wild Forest. ECOs Ricky Wood and Tom Koepf searched through the pile of garbage that contained the top of a pop-up camper, cupboards from a camper, and other miscellaneous items. The ECOs located pieces of mail with a name and address in Swan Lake. On Sept. 2, ECOs Wood, Koepf, and a Forest Ranger interviewed the Swan Lake man who stated that there used to be a pop-up camper on his property where he had once stored some of his belongings, but that his landlord had the camper taken off of the property several months ago. The officers contacted the landlord, who stated that she had sold the property to her brother, who then gave the camper to a subject in the town of Liberty. The officers drove to the Liberty address and observed the camper in question (now a make-shift wood trailer) sitting in the front lawn. The ECOs and Ranger conducted interviews with subjects at the residence. Ultimately, a female admitted that she and her father had dumped the roof of the camper and the other garbage on State Land because the local transfer station was closed that day. ECOs issued tickets to the father-daughter duo for the unlawful disposal of solid waste, and depositing a noisome unwholesome substance on or near a roadway. The subjects agreed to clean up the trash that day and dispose of it properly.

Early Bear Season Baiting – Ulster County

On Sept. 7, ECOs Adam Johnson and Lucas Palmateer were on foot patrol in the town of Wawarsing for opening day of the early bear season. While walking along a logging trail bordering NYC Department of Environmental Protection property, the officers noticed a vacant tree stand on a small parcel of private property. Also, clearly visible from the trail was an open jar of peanut butter stuck to a tree, corn spread on the ground, and a purple syrup on the ground in front of the tree stand. Because the bait was fresh and undisturbed, the officers determined the person hunting would probably hunt that afternoon, so the officers decided to come back later that day. The officers returned an hour before sunset to investigate the site. As ECO Palmateer entered the woods to see if a car was parked on the property, he came within 10 yards of a large black bear making its way to the property in question. After a brief encounter, the bear ran off in the opposite direction and Palmateer confirmed someone was hunting on the property in the baited location. The two ECOs walked to the property and observed an individual sitting just feet from the bait with a crossbow in his lap. The individual admitted to placing the bait. ECO Johnson issued the individual one summons for hunting bear with the aid of bait, returnable to the Town of Wawarsing Court.