As a National Parks fangirl, when I heard there was a graffiti artist painting smiley faces in acrylic paint on rocks at Yosemite, Crater Lake, Death Valley and others, I was, like much of internet, outraged. Even though I come from a family of artists and have long considered graffiti an art form, the idea that an artist would use something that belongs to all of us as her personal canvas struck a (very angry) chord.
While graffiti at our beloved parks is on the rise, (likely spurred on by social media, grrrr) Reddit users and a blogger who were as frustrated as I was about this vandalism used social media sleuthing to bring down the National Parks vandal.
How did they use the graffitist's own online tools to catch her? Casey Nocket had tagged her images with "Creepytings" and her Tumblr and Instagram accounts shared that name. Modern Hiker blogger Casey Schreiner started compiling Creepytings' social media posts on his blog, which set others online to start digging deep to find more examples.
Schreiner's post attracted the attention of National Parks' investigator Steve Yu, who took the evidence collected on social media and tracked Nocket down.
“The American national parks are really, really special. And people have very strong attachment to these places. For a lot of people, visiting these parks has a very deep impact on who you become as a person,” Schreiner told The Guardian. “So for a lot of us, seeing these places vandalized feels like a kick in the gut, and it still feels like that.”
Nocket was found and charged with seven counts of "injury or depredation against government property" in six parks in four states: Oregon, California, Utah and Colorado. She pled guilty to this federal crime and was sentenced to 200 hours of community service. She will also be levied a fine, which will be decided in December at another hearing. On top of that, Nocket has to write an apology letter to the National Park Service and she's banned from all U.S. public lands, including national parks, forests, any land administered by the BLM or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — all of which makes up about 20 percent of the U.S. — for two years.
Nocket is young; hopefully in another couple of years she'll understand why what she did made so many people angry enough that they spent their own time tracking her down and exposing her.