Philadelphia police and prosecutors are investigating an anonymous Instagram account with thousands of followers that has been identifying witnesses in violent crimes across the city – aiming, in its creator’s words, to “expose rats,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The account, called rats215, has outed more than 30 witnesses since February, posting photos, police statements, and testimony on the photo-sharing website.
Because many of the statements posted aren’t public records, authorities are investigating the page as a potential act of mass witness intimidation in a city where police and prosecutors struggle daily to find witnesses willing to testify. Rats215 had nearly 7,900 followers. To find who’s behind it, authorities this week obtained several search warrants on the account. In one instance, rats215 posted photos and evidence from a shooting victim whose case was handled in a secret grand jury. In another, the account posted a photo taken while a witness was testifying.