The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

November 8, 2013

Police: Instagram account "exposing rats" in Philly

PHILADELPHIA — City police were trying to find out who is behind an anonymous social media site that has been identifying witnesses in violent crimes across Philadelphia with the stated intention of trying to “expose rats.”

The “rats215” account on the photo-sharing site Instagram has posted pictures, police statements and testimony identifying more than 30 witnesses since February, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Police Lt. John Walker said investigators learned of the account last week when an officer monitoring Twitter spotted photos of a witness and court records from an attempted shooting last year. That led to the Instagram account where officials found witness statements from the alleged 19-year-old victim, who said he was fired upon that summer because he had testified in a homicide case, he said.

Instagram representatives said they were looking into the account, which was inaccessible by 8 p.m. Thursday, the newspaper said.

The account had nearly 7,900 followers and had been updated almost daily. It contained more than 150 photos, many drawing dozens of comments and “likes.”

“Post some new rats,” one commenter wrote in September, according to the Inquirer. “I needa put a hit out on them.”

One post praised drug dealer Kaboni Savage, who was sentenced to death for being behind a dozen murders including a firebombing that killed four children and two women.

Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said she couldn’t comment on an investigation but called witness intimidation a “very serious, ongoing problem” that plagues Philadelphia prosecutors daily.

“We work with Philadelphia police to investigate vigorously and thoroughly any attempt to intimidate any witness, to identify perpetrators, and, where appropriate, arrest and prosecute,” she said in an email.

Veteran law enforcement officials say they have seen victims’ statements posted in barbershops, on neighborhood utility poles and even mailed to the homes of witnesses, but such statements now are as likely to wind up on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Walker said investigators are now working to identify the account-holder.

“These actions shoot an arrow through the heart of the criminal justice system, placing victims and witnesses at risk,” he said.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
State News
  • Green, Libertarian candidates abandon bids for governor

    Both third-party candidates who hoped to compete in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial race have given up – leaving Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic nominee Tom Wolf to compete one-on-one.

    August 1, 2014

  • PennDOT contractor arraigned on $3.6M theft charge

    A Department of Transportation contractor stole $3.6 million in public funds by billing the state for work that was never done, state prosecutors said Thursday in what they described as an ongoing corruption probe of PennDOT’s southeastern Pennsylvania district.

    July 31, 2014

  • Police: Women stole thousands from elderly sisters, used money to show St. Bernards

    Two western Pennsylvania women have been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from two elderly sisters and using the money to attend dog shows.

    July 29, 2014

  • Intervening neighbor’s death now ruled homicide

    The Allegheny County medical examiner says a neighbor who died after he intervened in a fight between a couple next door is the victim of homicide.

    July 29, 2014

  • Housing police: Naked women slashes 3 in melee

    Allegheny County Housing Authority police were trying to identify a naked woman who allegedly slashed or stabbed three other women in an apparent lovers’ quarrel at a public housing complex.

    July 29, 2014

  • Police: Rescued boys never mentioned drowned teen

    Police say two teens who were rescued from a jetty in Presque Isle Bay in Erie last week, and two others who were with them, never mentioned a fifth boy who drowned and whose body wasn’t found until Saturday.

    July 29, 2014

  • 2 arraigned, denied bail in deadly Philly carjacking

    Two men accused of carjacking a woman in north Philadelphia and plowing into a family selling fruit on a street corner, killing three children, have been ordered held without bail.

    July 29, 2014

  • PennDOT pushes ‘Yellow Dot’ vehicle stickers

    It’s the car sticker that could save your life.
    PennDOT’s “Yellow Dot” program has been around for several years, said Daniel Zakraysek, coordinator of the Cambria Allegheny Regional Highway Safety Network.

    July 28, 2014

  • Remembering elephant’s rampage

    The circus elephant paced the landing outside the Jaffa Mosque in Altoona.
    Police formed an uneasy line around the perimeter of the venue’s lawn, rifles at the ready.
    It was a cloudy, cold day in April 1993, and Tyke the elephant had just run around the circus ring, slapped a baboon and burst through a building’s front door, tearing off part of the wall above the door.

    July 28, 2014

  • State briefs 7/29/2014

    July 28, 2014

Poll

Do you think pet obituaries should be included with death notices?

Yes, my pet is considered a member of the family.
No, pet obituaries are inappropriate.
Pet obituaries should be placed on a different page in the newspaper.
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads