A new legislation could help find missing adults by sending an alert notification. The Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 is aimed to set up a program to get alerts for adults who are missing, similar to Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts. The bill is named after Ashanti Billie who went missing in 2017 and was found dead weeks later. The Ashanti Alert bill has been passed by the U.S. Senate in December 2018 and may go into effect soon.
What Is the Ashanti Alert?
The Ashanti Alert aims to notify the public about a missing adult aged 18 to 65 years. The Ashanti Alert Communications Network is similar to the Amber Alert system for missing children.
Virginia state already passed the bill into a law as the Virginia Critically Missing Adult Alert Program. The alert went into effect on July 1, 2018. It will officially be known as the Ashanti Alert in the state and likely nationwide now that the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 has passed in the U.S. Senate.
What Sets off the Ashanti Alert?
This system is meant for the missing adults who are too old for an Amber Alert and don’t meet the criteria for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert applies to adults between roughly the ages of 18 to 65 years.
According to the bill passed in Virginia, a Critically Missing Adult “means an adult (i) whose whereabouts are unknown, (ii) who is believed to have been abducted, and (iii) whose disappearance poses a credible threat as determined by a law-enforcement agency to the health and safety of the adult and under such other circumstances as deemed appropriate by the Virginia State Police.”
The Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 that aims to make this system nationwide defines a missing adult as one who “(A) is older than the age for which an alert may be issued through the AMBER Alert communications network in the State or territory of an Indian Tribe in which the individual is identified as a missing individual; “(B) is identified by a law enforcement agency as a missing individual; and “(C) meets the requirements to be designated as a missing adult, as determined by the State in which, or the Indian Tribe in the territory of which, the individual is identified as a missing individual.”
History of Ashanti Alert
Ashanti Billie’s Disappearance and Murder
The Ashanti Alert is named after 19-year-old Ashanti Billie from Prince George’s County in Maryland. After graduating high school in Maryland, she went to Virginia Beach to study culinary arts. She worked at a Blimpie Sub Shop at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story.
Billie disappeared from the military base in Hampton Roads, Virginia in September 2017. She was last seen on September 18, driving into the base. However, she didn’t show up at her workplace or for her classes.
Friends and family, with the help of volunteers, scoured for evidence nearby. They found hair braids and a piece of clothing that was turned over to the authorities. The FBI also found her cellphone in a trash bin and her car was abandoned.
After two weeks of searching for Ashanti Billie, her body was found behind a church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In November 2017, a then-45-year-old Eric Brian Brown was arrested and charged with the abduction and death of Billie. Brown, a 21-year Navy veteran, grew up in Charlotte, not far from where Billie’s remains were found. He used to attend Bible classes as a child at the same church.
He was reportedly homeless and lived in buildings in and around naval bases. A retired petty officer, he worked as an information systems technician in the Navy and had access to the base. At the time of Billie’s abduction, he was a day laborer who helped build the sandwich shop she worked at.
Billie’s co-worker recalled that Brown had made a crude sexual comment about Billie. Employees said he was always lurking around the shop, until her disappearance.
Brown’s construction colleague identified him on the surveillance video where he was seen disposing of Billie’s phone. Investigators found his DNA on Billie’s body and clothes.
He was arrested for soliciting a prostitute on September 30, and charged for the crime a few days later. After further investigation revealed he was connected to Billie’s disappearance and death, Brown was charged with her abduction and murder. In early 2018, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and found incompetent to stand trial.
Need for Missing Adults Alert
When Billie disappeared, her parents, Meltony and Brandy Billie, were disheartened to learn that at 19, she was too old for an Amber Alert. Unfortunately, there was no alert system in place to find missing adults.
The Billies felt that were an alert sent for Billie, the outcome could have been different. While legislation discourages the overuse of alert systems, several lawmakers also believed that a missing adults alert could be beneficial.
Virginia States Enacts Ashanti Alert
Jerrauld “Jay” Jones, a Democrat in the Virginia House, first sponsored the bill for the Critically Missing Adult Alert in the state house. The alert would be known as the Ashanti Alert upon being enforced.
In the Virginia bill, the alert is meant to help find missing adults between the ages of 18 and 60. Authorities can issue notifications for adults who fit the criteria as prescribed in the bill. Media blasts issued over radio, TV, and street signs can bring in more eyes on the lookout for the missing persons.
The bill was unanimously passed by the Virginia House and Senate. Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into a law in April 2018. The Ashanti Alert went into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2018.
Ashanti Alert Goes Nationwide
Billie’s parents hoped that the Ashanti Alert system that began in Virginia would become nationwide. They worked with members of Congress to draft a legislation that could enforce an alert system for adults throughout the country.
State Rep. Pat Billie Miller of Stamford, Connecticut is Ashanti Billie’s father’s cousin. She, too, has been pushing for the Ashanti Alert.
The bill has seen positive bipartisan support in Congress. Republican Rep. Scott W. Taylor from Virginia introduced the Ashanti Alert bill in the U.S. House of Representatives in September.
The federal legislation integrates the Ashanti Alert into the existing Blue Alert network. The Blue Alert is a system to notify the public if someone who assaulted or killed a police officer is still at large.
The Fraternal Order of Police and National Association of Police Organizations support the enactment of the Ashanti Alert. However, they believe that combining it with Blue Alert could create confusion.
According to the House bill, a national coordinator will be hired to determine the criteria for issuing the Ashanti Alert. The coordinator’s purpose is to prevent the effectiveness of the bill from getting diluted from overuse, and to protect the privacy of the missing adult.
After a year, the coordinator will report to Congress on which states have implemented the Ashanti Alert. The coordinator will also report on how many alerts were issued and how effective the system was in finding the person.
After the House passed the bill, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner from Virginia made revisions to the bill addressing the concerns of law enforcement officials. He introduced the Ashanti Alert bill in the U.S. Senate in December 2018. He announced on December 7, via Twitter, that the Senate had passed the bill.
PASSED: The #AshantiAlert Act just passed the United States Senate. Let’s get this important legislation to the President’s desk so the Ashanti Alert System for missing adults can begin saving lives around the country.
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) December 6, 2018
The bill will return to the House next before it’s sent to President Donald Trump to be signed into law. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and State Rep. Pat Billie Miller are urging the House to pass the Senate’s revised bill. Sen. Warner is positive the Ashanti Alert will be passed into a law by the end of 2018.