After repeated efforts to prompt action, Senator Mark Warner met with Principal Deputy Attorney General Katherine Sullivan on July 29 to discuss implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018.
Following the meeting, Senator Warner followed up with a letter to memorialize the meeting.
“As I stated during our conversation, I remain strongly committed to monitoring its implementation and ensuring that the network can start saving lives soon. It was heartening to hear that as designated national coordinator, you are committed to swiftly implementing this potentially lifesaving system by working in collaboration with states to ensure that Ashanti Alert systems are established across the country with proper network guidelines,” wrote Sen. Warner.
Warner also contrasted the slow federal response with success in implementing a state-level system to find missing adults. “Last year, Virginia successfully established its own Ashanti Alert system in only three months. Since then, the Commonwealth has sent out a number of alerts, some of which have helped find missing or endangered adults alive in under 24 hours. As we discussed, I believe that the officials in Virginia could provide valuable guidance to you and other states, so I urge you to seek out their guidance regarding this matter,” wrote Sen. Warner.
In March, Warner wrote to Attorney General William Barr, seeking an update on implementation of Ashanti Alert within the U.S. Department of Justice.
In early April, Warner urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Ashanti Alert program in order to speed its creation and implementation.
In late April, Warner met with the family of Ashanti Billie in Norfolk and urged the Trump administration to take expedited action on the implementation of Ashanti Alert.
A persistent theme in the coverage of missing persons has been disparate treatment of missing persons of color. One example from North Carolina paints a compelling picture.
In 2017, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department had 55 missing persons cases that remained open as of February 2018. The overwhelming majority of them are minorities. 23 are black, 23 are Hispanic, eight are white and one is unknown. Read more at WBTV.
Derrica Wilson, Co-Founder of the Black and Missing Foundation sees this trend often across the country. “We’re not trying to dishonor any community, we’re just trying to even the playing field. Because the worst is the unknown. Not knowing if your loved one is safe, not knowing if they are hungry,” Wilson said.
TV One ran the series “Find Our Missing,” hosted by Law & Order actress S. Epatha Merkerson for two seasons from 2012 to 2013. Merkerson, best known for her role as Lieutenant Van Buren on Law & Order, was inspired to host the show. “I noticed that there’s been this dialogue, especially on the black radio stations, about the dearth of information on people of color who are missing on a national scale,” said Merkerson. “So when TV One called and asked me to host, I thought to myself, Wow, some things happen for a reason.”
On July 25, 2019, a Silver Alert was issued for 89-year-old Wesley Collins. Collins went missing in Nowata County, Oklahoma and was safe 150 miles away in Wichita, Kansas.
According to the news story on KTUL-TV:
UPDATE: Collins’ family says he was found safe in Wichita, Kansas.
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) – The Nowata County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Silver Alert for 89-year-old Wesley Collins.
He was last seen around 11 a.m. on Thursday.