WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) secured unanimous Senate passage of the Ashanti Alert Act, legislation that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. Currently, the U.S. does not have an alert system for missing adults.
The Ashanti Alert Act is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017. Her body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert, like the other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through radio and television broadcast systems to assist law enforcement in the search.
“Ashanti’s tragic death should not be in vain,” said Sen. Warner. “We must give law enforcement agencies and communities across the country the tools they need to locate missing adults and save more lives.”
“I’m grateful to the family of Ashanti Billie for sharing her story with me and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action. I’m proud to work with Senator Warner on this important legislation to create a real time alert system for missing adults, which will provide vital information to first responders and help save lives,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). “I urge my House colleagues to pass this revised bill before the end of the year.” Sen. Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, teamed up with Sen. Warner on this legislation after hearing from Ashanti’s cousin, Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller.
"Virginia led the way this past legislative session by implementing a law focused on enhancing a vital component of public safety - the Amber and Senior Alert systems," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. "Delegate Jay Jones spearheaded an effort to create an Amber Alert-like system for "critically missing" adults, upon hearing the heartbreaking story of a family whose 19 year old daughter went missing in the Norfolk area. Amber Alerts and Endangered Missing Child Media Alerts are for missing persons under the age 18; and Senior Alerts are issued for persons 60 years of age or older. This leaves a gap for adults between the ages of 18 and 60 years old. The 'Ashanti Alert', named after Ashanti Billie would address an important demographic of the population, and ensure that timely and efficient messaging is delivered to residents across Virginia to aid in search efforts. This law is a step in the right direction to ensuring a safer Commonwealth for all her residents."
“Senator Warner’s Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 will help ensure that law enforcement has the information necessary to swiftly recover missing persons and accurately inform the general public about breaking news of a missing or endangered adult,” said Bill Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations. “NAPO believes that the establishment of a stand-alone Ashanti Alert Network will help prevent horrible tragedies like case of Ashanti Billie. We support the Ashanti Alert Act and thank Senator Warner for working with us on this important legislation.”
“The NAACP is proud to support Senator Warner’s legislation, the Ashanti Alert Act,” said Mr. Hilary O. Shelton, the Director of the NAACP Washington Bureau and the Senior Vice President for Policy and Advocacy. “Upon implementation of this law, we will be expanding the Amber Alert system, which has proven to be an effective tool, to include a demographic that is currently missing from its protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65.”
“The Ashanti Alert is long overdue,” said Camille Cooper, Director Government Affairs, The National Association to PROTECT Children. “For decades, emphasis has been on finding missing children, while missing endangered adults has largely been ignored. With increases in human trafficking, murder and intimate partner violence, it’s time that the national crisis of women disappearing and being subjected to violence is met with the urgency it deserves.”
In June, Gov. Northam signed into law legislation introduced by Del. Jay Jones creating a statewide Ashanti Alert system in Virginia. In September, the House of Representatives unanimously passed its version of the Ashanti Alert Act, which was introduced by outgoing Congressman Scott Taylor.
Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor yesterday to urge his colleagues to work with him to ensure the Ashanti Alert Act becomes law after the House bill—in its original form—was blocked from passing. Sen. Warner worked with his colleagues to make modifications to the bill to allow for its eventual passage. Tonight, at Sen. Warner’s request, the bill was discharged from the Senate Judiciary Committee, modified, and then passed by unanimous consent on the Senate floor. Following its passage in the Senate, the bill now heads back to the House.
The full text of the amended bill can be found here.