Eco-Cops On Patrol

New York deploys environmental police—what you gonna do when they come for you?
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New York deploys environmental police—what you gonna do when they come for you?

Polluters, illegal wildlife smugglers, and recycling-blockers of New York beware: The boys in blue—or, in this case, green—are after you. The NYPD has ramped up their environmental conservation officer presence, and while there are only 20 in the actual city, they issue around 2,000 summonses for criminal activity a year. And while they may dress in green and wear flat-brimmed, Smokey-the-Bear-style hats, they also carry handcuffs and guns.

Criminal summonses and complaints about environmental crimes have doubled and tripled in New York in recent years, which reflects both a growing environmental awareness by the citizenry and a willingness to prosecute offenders by the police force. Now, when New Yorkers complain about a body shop leaking copious oil into the street or a store refusing to reimburse customers for returned bottles and cans for recycling, eco-cops are quick to enforce environmental laws.

They also embark on their own investigations, shutting down seafood markets for selling undersize fish and issuing citations for improperly stored or undocumented shellfish. They'll even pull over trucks for spewing polluting blue smoke in asthma-prone, low-income housing areas.

But they care as much about education as prosecution, and they often return to the scene of the crime to make sure violators have learned from their mistakes.

“I’ll see whether our enforcement made a difference,” he said. “I hope that when we go in there, they’re in compliance.”

Cops who care—it's a concept the boys in blue would do well to learn from their brothers in green.

—Ted Alvarez

Polluters, Beware: These Eco-Police Officers Are for Real (NY Times)