Example of vandalism at NPS restroom at the Ocracoke Discovery Center. NPS photo

Observer staff report

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore is seeking the Ocracoke community’s help in stanching recurring vandalism at the restrooms beside the Ocracoke Discovery Center.

Since last summer, law enforcement rangers discovered six separate acts of vandalism at the restrooms located across from the ferry docks in Ocracoke Village.

The Seashore now seeks tips from the public to help catch those responsible for the vandalism.

Dating back to Aug. 25, vandals have damaged handrails, toilets and door locks; ripped soap and toilet paper dispensers off walls; removed trash bags, soap, and toilet paper; thrown trash around the restrooms; and kicked in a restroom door and broke its frame.

In addition to these acts of vandalism, drug paraphernalia have been found inside the restrooms.

David Hallac, superintendent, National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, said in an interview that the first acts late last summer seemed related to the “Devious Licks” TikTok challenge in which students film themselves on the video app stealing and vandalizing items in public, particularly in schools.

“We don’t know that (the vandalism is) related to that, but certainly there are concerns that the vandalism was, or is, related to the TikTok challenge,” he said.

Hallac ruled out plans to install cameras at the bathrooms, which, basically, are left open all night.

“Do you really want a camera inside while you’re going to the bathroom?” he said. As for cameras at the entrances, “What if 10 people go in at night and the next morning we find vandalism. How do we know who did it? So that’s what makes it really hard.”

Hallac noted that this vandalism has prompted thoughts of possibly locking the restrooms at night.

“But that would be terrible to do because they’re serving as a primary restroom for most of the folks that are shopping in Ocracoke village, so we really don’t want to do that,” he said. “They’re also serving as restrooms for ferry passengers. The last thing you want to do in a case like this is penalize all of the upstanding folks that need to use the bathroom.”

Two of the restrooms that have been vandalized are behind the older bathrooms that are alongside the Discovery Center. The Park Service recently began renovating the older bathrooms, with an expected completion date at the beginning of May, but one of the doors to those was recently locked and the door kicked in.

“We appreciate the support of the Hyde County Sheriff’s Department and North Carolina Department of Transportation during the Seashore’s investigation of these crimes,” Hallac said. “While some of the acts of vandalism may seem minor, they cumulatively have led to a significant burden on maintenance staff and provide negative experiences for visitors to Ocracoke Island.”

Anyone with information that may help determine the individuals, circumstances and events that led to these acts of vandalism are asked to contact the National Park Service’s Investigative Services Branch (ISB). Call or text the ISB Tip Line at 888-653-0009 or submit a tip at www.nps.gov/isb.

The damaged restroom door frame caused by the door having been kicked in. NPS photo
These restrooms at the Ocracoke Discovery Center are undergoing renovation with an expected completion date of early May. Although two other bathrooms located behind these have been vandalized, these, too, have also been damaged. NPS photo