(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5075, the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018, introduced by Representatives Scott Taylor (VA-02), Lamar Smith (TX-21), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), and David Cicilline (RI-01) on February 20, 2018.
The Ashanti Alert, like other alert systems, establishes an alert network to help local and regional law enforcement efforts to search for missing adults between the ages of 18-65. This system would use a wide array of media outlets - such as commercial radio stations, television stations, and cable television - to broadcast information about missing persons. It also sets a minimum standard for issuing alerts if the person suffers from a proven mental or physical disability; if law enforcement believes their physical safety is endangered or; if they believe their disappearance may not have been voluntary. The Ashanti Alert also integrates with the Blue Network instead of AMBER so that information about missing adults and children are kept separate. This ensures that law enforcement efforts are not duplicated, which could mean the difference between locating a person and saving them.
"If a child or a senior goes missing, if the investigation law enforcement agency believes a life is in danger, it is authorized to broadcast alerts on major channels or radio stations to the public. These alerts are proven to save lives, but still the United States does not have an alert system for missing adults. The Ashanti Alert is designed to close that critical gap and extend these protections to all Americans. I want to thank Representatives Smith, Raskin, and Cicilline for their support and leadership on this bill, and extend my deepest sympathies to the friends and family of Ashanti Billie for their loss. Although Ashanti is no longer with us, her legacy will live on in this legislation and give law enforcement all across the country the tools they need to locate missing adults in danger," said Representative Scott Taylor.
“This legislation enables critical cooperation among law enforcement and better leverages resources to track and find missing adults. I thank Congressman Taylor for his work on this important bill and my colleagues for their support on the House floor," said Representative Lamar Smith.
“The Ashanti Alert Act gives state and local law enforcement the tools to issue emergency alerts for people between 18 and 65 who go missing. I’m proud to have pushed this lifesaving bipartisan legislation with Rep. Taylor and am thrilled that our bill passed the House today. We already have emergency alert systems to help us locate missing children and senior citizens and we must implement the same serious standards for all missing and endangered adults," said Representative Jamie Raskin.
“The NAACP strongly urges the US House of Representatives to pass and work towards full implementation of 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 effective Amber Alert system to include a demographic that is crucially missing from the protections, those between the ages of 18 and 65. The challenges of kidnapping and human trafficking as well as the challenges of those with mental health issues knows no age boundary and affects every American community. We look forward to continuing to work with Congressman Taylor, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Administration to see this problem resolved.”
Background: H.R. 5075 is named for Ashanti Billie, 19, who went missing on September 18, 2017 in Norfolk, Virginia. At the time, Ashanti was splitting her time between working at Blimpie restaurant on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story and taking culinary classes at the Art Institute of Virginia Beach. She had recently moved to the Virginia Beach area to pursue her dreams of attending culinary school, in the hopes of opening her own bakery. On September 18, Ashanti was kidnapped shortly after arriving to work. Surveillance showed that her car was seen driven by another individual and her cell phone was later found in a dumpster in Norfolk, Virginia. On September 23rd, her car and some of her belongings were found in Norfolk. Billie’s body was found at East Stonewall AME Zion Church in North Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 29th. DNA found at the site led to the arrest and incarceration of her captor after an exhaustive search by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.