How Reddit Helped Catch a National Park Graffiti Bandit

Credit: US Attorney's Office of Eastern District of California

When it comes to breaking laws in our National Parks, there’s varying levels of seriousness. You likely didn’t know, for example, that you can't harass a golfer in any national park in Washington, D.C., or that it's a federal crime if you tease breeding animals in a national park.

Among the more egregious transgressions are the Yellowstone tourists who put a baby bison in their car because they thought it was cold. (The animal had to be euthanized). Next up in idiotic moves humans make in National Parks is one that got a vandal banned from all federally administered land, or about 20 percent of the United States. Casey Nocket, a 23-year-old graffiti artist, was sentenced June 13, and, in addition to the ban, got two years probation and 200 hours of community service for defacing rock formations in National Parks. She left her tag, “Creepytings,” near the faces she painted, a clue that helped Internet sleuths track her down on Tumblr and Instagram.

Nocket struck in 2014 in at least seven National Parks and sites: Colorado National Monument, Death Valley, Canyonlands, Crater Lake, Yosemite, and Mount Zion. She used hard-to-remove acrylic paint on the rocks and, when another Instagram user called her out on it, she replied “I know, I’m a bad person.”

The graffiti vandalism is a sore spot for artists, who have long had a special (and legal) relationship with National Parks, including residency programs for painters, musicians, and writers. The park service also just teamed with photographers and painters to feature art from 18 National Parks on stamps.

Photographer Matthew Dieterichwho seamed together 200 images for a star trail photograph that is the featured Mount Rainier stamp, says the vast majority of artists are respectful of the national park landscape. But, before news of the graffiti vandal began circulating, he had heard of landscape photographers moving rocks so nobody could get the same shot. “It irks me,” Dieterich says. “It’s a shame people feel so entitled. It takes away from the visitor experience.”