Reddit's resourceful community of users has just done our nation a great service. Despite getting a bad rap over the years for their juvenile behavior and contentious opinions, the popular link-sharing site's contributors should be saluted for bringing a law-breaking graffiti artist to justice.
Casey Nocket, who pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts based on his defiling of rock formations in seven national parks, is now banned from 524 million acres of public land -- that totals a whopping 20 percent of the U.S., in case you were wondering. And it's all thanks to the efforts of a group of Reddit users who helped to track her down using social media and reported her to the National Parks Service.
Nocket went on a vandalism spree during a 26-day period in 2014. She would tag trails and cliffs with colorful faces, accompanied by her pseudonym "CreepyTings," and then post pictures of the graffiti to her Instagram and Tumblr accounts.
Nocket first came to the attention of Reddit when one of its users posted an image of her graffiti spotted in Yosemite, reports The Guardian. The "National Park Vandal" quickly became a talking point for the site's climbing and hiking community.
The amateur investigation kicked off when Casey Schreiner posted screenshots from Nocket's Instagram and Tumblr accounts to his site Modern Hiker. These profiles later made it on to Reddit. It didn't help Nocket's case that she showed no remorse for her actions, responding to an Instagram comment decrying her use of acrylic paint with: "I know, I'm a bad person."
Nocket's unapologetic behavior only fueled the hate directed toward her online. At one point her Tumblr was hacked and overtaken by a troll, and her family reached out to hiking blog Trailmob with concerns for her safety. Alas, Reddit's notoriously foul-mouthed community can't necessarily be relied upon to carry out a good deed without a few hiccups along the way.
A post in the r/Yosemite subreddit caught the attention of Yosemite National Park investigator Steve Yu, who ended up asking the site's users for assistance in tracking down Nocket. He later edited his post to implore the contributors to not take matters into their own hands, and to respect Nocket's right to due process. Yu added that the Reddit users on the thread had ultimately helped him "filter new data."
On June 13, Nocket was issued the aforementioned ban from public land administered by the National Park Service, United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She was also sentenced to serve 200 hours of community service, and ordered to pay an as-yet undetermined fine.
Charles Culver, head of the National Parks Service's law enforcement arm, claimed that social media played a key part in the inquiry. "When there are acts of destruction and you make them known at large through social media, that is a powerful tool of investigation," he said.
Clean-up efforts have resulted in the successful removal of the graffiti in five of the seven national parks. The remaining sites, including Death Valley, and Crater Lake, are due to be cleaned next, according to the authorities.