On a fairly regular basis, I receive emails at Modern Hiker from people who were out enjoying their favorite trails and unfortunately came upon a form of vandalism. Sometimes they caught people in the act, other times they just happened upon it afterward. And while more people are (thankfully, I guess?) including their social media handles on their graffiti or posting photos of their ‘work’ on their own social media accounts, often times people who are trying to do the right thing and report these crimes simply don’t know who to report them to. Unless the vandalism rises to the scope of a Casey Nocket or the vandal has the high profile of someone like André Saraiva, it can be tough to drum up enough public awareness to spur action.

Now there’s a more efficient way or reporting these acts, though — and it’s as easy as sending a Facebook message.

Recently, someone tweeted a video from southern Utah’s National Parks to us — and while the video was, indeed, quite lovely to look at, it also appeared to be shot using aerial drones at locations that were recognizably inside national parks. A 2014 policy banned personal drone use without a permit in most parks, including all of the parks that appear to be in the video.

After digging into the account and checking on drone policy in those parks, I headed to the NPS Investigative Services Facebook Page, opened up their Facebook Messenger, and sent them relevant URLs and screenshots. The very next morning, I received a response from the agents:

And that was it! Quick and simple, and a response from an actual human being. It honestly couldn’t be easier.

The Investigative Services Facebook page is also a good place to keep up to date on what law enforcement operations are going on inside National Park lands. They’ll post missing persons reports, video footage or stills of suspects they’re looking for, and updates and resolutions to cases.

Tips and information can be submitted anonymously as well, and if you’re not on Facebook there are several other options for reporting things that may be violations of rules or laws:

CALL the ISB Tip Line 888-653-0009

TEXT to 202-379-4761

ONLINE www.nps.gov/isb and click “Submit a Tip”

EMAIL nps_isb@nps.gov

MESSAGE via Facebook @InvestigativeServicesNPS or Twitter @SpecialAgentNPS

ISB: the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service Tip Line (online form)

Social media too-often takes an unfair share of the blame for the increased levels of vandalism inside our public lands, so it’s incredibly refreshing to see the Park Service using social media to help its law enforcement efforts.

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Hiker, Author of "Day Hiking Los Angeles," Walking Meditator, Native Plant Enthusiast.


Bonnie Clarfield

Bonnie Clarfield Jul 25, 2017 10:07

This is good information, however please be aware that this tip line is not staffed 24-hours per day. However, many parks have 24-hour dispatchers who can to get hold of a ranger immediately.

If you see an illegal incident in progress, it is best to get a Visitor and Resource Protection Ranger, aka Law Enforcement Ranger, on scene ASAP. For successful prosecution, most misdemeanor crimes need to be witnessed in-person by law enforcement. Ontheotherhand, felony crimes are investigated and a citation or arrest can occur at a later date. Many crimes, such as flying drones, harassing wildlife, graffiti, etc. are misdemeanors. The best way to get a ranger is by calling the park's dispatch number or getting hold of an employee that can use their radio.

Be prepared before you hit the trails or drive through the backcountry. Check bulletin boards at the trailheads or read the handouts you received at an entrance station. There will often be a contact number to report incidents; always call 911 for emergencies. Write down the number or take a photo with your phone, so you will have it while experiencing the park. Perhaps, you will be fortunate to have a cell phone signal to report the incident in "real time."

If time has passed and it is not reasonable to catch the criminals while they are in the park, or you don't have a local park contact number, then leaving a message for the National Park Investigative Service is a terrific option.

I share this information as a recently retired US Park Ranger.

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Jonathan Pike Jul 20, 2017 19:07

Don't be a snitch. It is one thing for someone to smuggle a caribou out of the park and it is another thing to use a drone.

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