Digital Underground: Cyber Thugs, Police, and Virtual Investigations (7 of 8)

No snitching

Snitches Get Stitches. Sound familiar? If not, you should be glad you haven’t. The phrase means exactly what it says. According to Urban Dictionary the word “snitch” means,

“Someone who gives up incriminating evidence to people they have no business talking to in the first place. Some snitch because they need attention others snitch because they are scared.”[1] Snitches get stiches is “a saying indicating that “Snitches” or people who tell on others to police, partners etc. will get stitches, resulting from some kind of abuse (usually physical).[2]

Everyone knows police rely on informants to solve many cases. Of course, being an informant is risky business. So, informants usually try to remain anonymous, and for good reason. If criminals dislike the police, the one thing they probably dislike even more, is an informant. Giving the police information that they might not have otherwise attained, could be detrimental not only for the informant but for their family as well. Informants generally take extreme measures to ensure that they are not labeled as an informant. Most of the time these informants would not even come forward if they thought someone would find out. So, what happens when anonymous informant’s information is displayed on a social media site for all to see?

An anonymous Instagram account with thousands of followers has been “identifying witnesses in violent crimes – aiming, in its creator’s words, to “expose rats.”[3]  Rats215 had nearly 7,900 followers and has outed more than 30 witnesses since February, posting photos, police statements, and testimony on the photo-sharing website.[4]

In one instance, rats215 posted photos and evidence from a shooting victim whose case was handled in a secret grand jury.[5]

In another, the account posted a photo that appeared to have been taken while a witness was testifying in court.[6]

The page has more than 150 photos and is updated almost daily, each new post draws dozens of comments and “likes” from readers, with some of the commenters advocating violence against those who help police.[7]

“Post some new rats,” one commenter wrote. “I needa put a hit out on them.” “This page is [. . .] perfect.” Said another.[8]

The account-holder praises “Kaboni Savage – the North Philadelphia drug kingpin sentenced to death in June for 12 murders, including a fireboming that killed four children and two women. The bombing was retaliation for a witness’ cooperation with the FBI.” In the same post, rats215 warns witnesses “we will get at you in time.”[9] Police also found statements from a 19-year-old victim who was fired because he had testified in a homicide case and secret court documents and photos that outed witnesses of two shootings in January and June 2012 and a 2007 homicide. “EXPOSE ALL RATS,” the caption beneath one reads.[10] In the past victims’ statements have been posted in barbershops, on neighborhood light poles, and even mailed to witnesses’ homes. “Now those statements are just as likely to end up on social-media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where untold numbers of users can see and share them.”[11]

Who is the mastermind behind the Instagram account? 17-year-old Nasheen K. Anderson.  After confirming that the account was Anderson’s, police arrested him at his school, and charged him with witness intimidation and terroristic threats.[12]

stop pod

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about pages like this. Three years ago, a similar page was posted on Facebook. The page, had six females and 10 males listed as snitches, some of them with photographs, as well as information on their alleged snitch offenses and where they live.[13] Some of the postings on include:

“We need to know who the [. . .]snitches are … keep up the good work,” said one male who commented.

“I think this is the best thing I’ve saw all year… GET EM,”[14]

and from a self-proclaimed snitch…

“Yea, I’m a huge snitch!! haha,” one female, whose photo is posted on the website, wrote with sarcasm on the “snitch” Facebook wall. … “It’s pretty sad that u have time to put a page like this together … get a LIFE!!!!”[15]

“I still remember the days when we lured them out of the mountain and beat them into oblivion.”[16]

“It’s about time these low-life, scumbag (expletive) got the public humiliation they deserve.”[17]

But at least the page comes with a disclaimer.

“We do not want anybody to try to do anything illegal, we just want them to avoid the informants for their safety,”

“You will not use this information to violate the law or the rights of others. We cannot be responsible if you choose to take this information and use it for any illegal purposes. We do not condone any form of harassment, threats, or assaults. DO NOT DO IT. Please use this information to keep you and your friends safe.”

Apparently, people really hate snitches. After a quick Google search, I stumbled upon several anti-snitching pages.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 1.54.27 AM

The bottom line: Police need snitches. A police officer tells why snitches are so important to criminal investigations. “You don’t know who’s dealing heroin; I don’t know who’s dealing heroin; but the guy who’s using heroin knows.”[18]

Anti-snitch pages put informants at risk. When informants are identified and outed on these pages, it has a detrimental effect on law enforcement’s ability to get information.


[2]

[3] Aubrey Whelan and Mike Newall, Police Probe Website Targeting Crime Witnesses Philly.com (November 09, 2013) http://articles.philly.com/2013-11-09/news/43827173_1_witness-north-philadelphia-instagram

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Dana Difilippo & Solomon Leach, Police Arrest Teen Behind Anti-Snitching Twitter Account (November 15, 2013) http://articles.philly.com/2013-11-15/news/44078246_1_instagram-west-philadelphia-documents

[11] Id.

[12] Dana Difilippo & Solomon Leach, Police Arrest Teen Behind Anti-Snitching Twitter Account (November 15, 2013) http://articles.philly.com/2013-11-15/news/44078246_1_instagram-west-philadelphia-documents

[13] Justin Strawser,Website Exposes ‘Snitches’ Informants Blast Back, While Police Monitor Unusual Shamokin Project (September 11, 2010) http://newsitem.com/news/website-exposes-snitches-informants-blast-back-while-police-monitor-unusual-shamokin-project-1.1005121

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.


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