New York Cuffs & Collars – November 16th, 2012
Northern District highlights
In July, ECO Toni Dragotta received a complaint that a subject had killed a rattlesnake at Tanglewood Nature Center in Big Flats. Upon investigation, she determined that a 15-year-old youth had been hiking with his stepfather and three other youths when they came upon a rattlesnake on the trail. The youth picked up a rock and whipped it at the coiled rattlesnake, killing it. Then he laid the rattlesnake on the trail and cut off the head with a rock and buried it. He claimed that he did this because the venom is toxic for 24 hours after the rattlesnake is killed. He carried the body of the snake out of the woods and planned to keep it. When they arrived at the trailhead they noticed the information signs that are posted informing the public that rattlesnakes are threatened and are not to be disturbed. The stepfather then called to report the incident. The youth and his stepfather have agreed to attend educational training regarding rattlesnakes at the Tanglewood Nature Center and the youth will be completing 40 hours of community service at the center. The youth was also issued a written warning for the violation.
Working undercover on the Whetstone Reservoir, ECO Shana Hutton observed a fisherman set up on the causeway and started using large fallfish as bait. After watching the fisherman for some time, Hutton approached the fisherman and asked where he got the bait. He stated he had caught them in a creek in Turin. Hutton identified herself and the fisherman knew he was caught. Hutton issued the fisherman a ticket for use and transporting uncertified baitfish.
Southern District highlights
Uncertified clams/felony arrest
(New York County)
On June 26 at about 2 p.m., ECO Brent Wilson concluded a lengthy (several months) investigation into the illegal sale and distribution of uncertified freshwater clams. With the assistance of ECOs Dustin Dainack, Timothy Machnica and Neil Stevens, along with New York State Attorney General Investigator Mike Ward, surveillance was conducted of a passenger bus which had been the means for transporting the illegal clams into New York state. The clams are harvested in other states and then brought into New York in unrefrigerated luggage compartments of passenger buses, without regard for sanitary conditions. It is believed that on average, about 1,600 pounds of clams were being brought in with each bus delivery. The total most likely exceeded approximately 10,400 pounds of known illegal clams that had been delivered thus far. A report from the DEC’s lab in East Setauket showed that samples taken from some of the freshwater clams seized had high levels of fecal coliform, E coli, and Coliphag virus. A fish market owner in New York City was charged with an E Felony illegal commercialization of shellfish and will be prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office. Investigation into this complaint also led to several other street-level arrests for the sale of uncertified freshwater clams believed to have also been illegally brought into New York state on buses.
Fish market detail
In the early morning hours of June 27, Lts. George Steele, Bruce Hummel, Tom Gadomski, along with ECOs Eric Dowling, Matthew Clemens, Shea Mathis, Nathan Favreau, Neil Stevens, Matthew Nichols, Erik Dalecki, Michael Unger and David Thomas, and NOAA Special Agent Todd Smith, conducted an inspection at a fish market in the Bronx. The ECOs checked vendors to ensure compliance with all applicable federal and state regulations pertaining to commercial quota-managed species seafood and shellfish. They checked multiple vendors, inspecting a diverse variety of aquatic species. Throughout the early morning hours, shipping and receiving at the market moves at a steady pace, with incoming and outgoing deliveries continually occurring. Initial vendor inspections did not reveal any violations, but as the morning progressed and more deliveries arrived, the ECOs began to identify multiple vendors in possession of undersized lobsters. On one occasion, after undersized lobsters began turning up, Steele observed a lift truck quickly leaving the building with boxes of lobsters. A quick check of the truck where the boxes of undersized lobsters were delivered identified yet another vendor in possession of undersized lobsters. At that vendor’s location, Hummel discovered, concealed under several boxes of legal-sized lobsters, yet another stash of undersized lobsters. As a result of the detail, 635 undersized and two oversized lobsters weighing a total of about 660 pounds were seized and donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan. In total, three misdemeanor and one felony citation were issued to four separate vendors, returnable to Bronx Criminal Court.
On July 11, ECOs Tim Fay and Mark Simmons conducted a boat patrol from Moriches Bay to the Great South Bay, enforcing the blue claw crab regulations. The ECOs inspected 10 different sets of gear: nine commercial sets and one recreational set of crab pots. Most of the checks were accomplished with an on-board inspection of each permitted harvester tending their crab gear. Of the nine commercial crab harvesters, four had no violations and two had minor violations. However, three permitted crab harvesters had more than one violation and the recreational crab pots did not comply with the regulations. Each of the baymen had previously been warned by ECOs in 2011 that their gear was not in compliance and needed to be fixed by the following season. The ECOs issued five appearance tickets for various violations, including failure to properly mark blue claw crab gear (improper surface markers/buoy and no tag on pot/trap) and setting a blue claw crab pot without an escape panel. Five more tickets were to be issued to the crab harvesters who were not present during the inspection.
Caught in the act
While patrolling on July 12, ECO Aaron Gordon received a call from a resident who lives on Hawthorne Lake in the Town of Greenville. The lakefront property owner was concerned because he observed someone paddling around the lake spraying something on the lilypads. Gordon responded to the location and did not observe any boats on the lake. After taking care of another complaint not far away, Gordon decided to patrol past Hawthorne Lake once more. This time a canoe with two people was seen out on the lake and the front rider of the canoe was spraying the lilypads with a liquid from a pump sprayer. Gordon directed the occupants of the canoe to shore and discovered they were spraying a herbicide onto the lilypads to kill them. The violator was a resident of the lake and took it upon herself to fix the vegetation problem with some herbicides bought illegally from a dealer in Pennsylvania. Gordon seized the sprayer used and numerous tickets were expected to be issued pending the completion of the investigation.
On June 24, ECOs Dawn Galvin and Michael Buckley were out on boat patrol on Greenwood Lake during the New York State Free Fishing Weekend. After a couple of hours of patrol, checking vessels for navigation law violations and any fish on board, they started to patrol back to the marina. Along the shoreline the ECOs noticed a small backhoe digging and decided to check if there was a permit for the work being done. The subject operating the machine stated he was fixing his retaining wall. When asked for a permit, he said he did not know he needed one. The ECOs advised him to stop working and he was issued a ticket for conducting a regulated activity without a permit. He was also advised that since he started the digging, he should put up some erosion control measures. The case was pending in the Town of Warwick Court.
On June 28, Sgt. Jeff Bever of the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department requested K9 assistance from T/Sgt. Keith Isles and K9 Shamey. A motorist found an abandoned motor vehicle at the scene of an accident in the Town of Carlisle. The vehicle was badly damaged after leaving the road, jumping a deep culvert and striking a tree head-on. The driver, thought to be the registered owner, could not be located at his residence, hospital, or friends’ homes. The immediate area was searched by the fire department. Because of the extensive damage to the vehicle, Bever was concerned the driver had wandered off and was lying somewhere injured. K9 Shamey began a track from the front seat of the vehicle and headed down a farm road toward distant fields. After tracking about 125 yards, K-9 Shamey alerted to a high bank along the trail and charged up, finding an intoxicated driver doing his best to hide beneath the vegetation. The subject was arrested and charged with DWI, leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and imprudent speed.
Kaaterskill Creek detail
Kaaterskill Creek in the Town of Hunter is a popular destination in the summer for swimming and picnicking activity. It is largely owned by New York state and designated as Forest Preserve. This area has seen increased activity and crowds in the past two years, resulting in increased garbage within the stream itself and along the length of State Route 23A. There has also been an increase in graffiti, broken glass, litter, food waste and underage drinking. Garbage bags have also been left in the surrounding woods at the parking areas and along the roadway. In addition, there have been multiple reports of smash-and-grab larcenies in which subjects break windows in vehicles to steal contents left in unattended vehicles while people are in the woods. There have been numerous reports of slashed tires.
On July 8, ECOs Sean Dewey, Anthony Glorioso, Jeffrey Cox, T/Sgt. Keith Isles and Lt. Jim Hays along with forest rangers Nelson and Breigle, Hunter police and Greene County sheriff’s deputies performed a detail to address illegal activities along Kaaterskill Creek. Violations observed involved the depositing of wastes in a protected trout stream, depositing rubbish on state land, possession of glass bottles, possession of marijuana and open fires where prohibited. A total of 16 subjects were ticketed for these violations and numerous parking tickets were issued. All charges were violations with a fine range up to $250; each charge also carries a court surcharge of $75.
Several subjects reported that windows had been broken out of their vehicles and items stolen. Patrol presence had a large impact on the illegal dumping; there was no debris left in the parking areas at the end of the day.
On July 9, efforts by Hunter police officer Ryan Shrader, Forest Ranger Christine Nelson and ECO Sean Dewey resulted in the apprehension of two subjects involved in a smash-and-grab theft at the Kaaterskill Falls trailhead parking area. Charges filed included two felonies and three misdemeanors.