In the Senate, Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) introduced S. 3714, a companion Senate bill that was similar to the House Ashanti Alert measure. The Senate measure was then amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and passed unanimously on the Senate floor. The amended Senate bill was then sent back to the House for approval, where it was adopted by a vote of 386 to 2. President Trump signed Ashanti Alert into law on December 31, 2018.
“In the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, Meltony and Brandy Billie did something extraordinary: they channeled grief into a determination that other families would be spared the anguish of losing a loved one like they did Ashanti. Though no one can ever erase their pain, I hope it comforts them now to know that Ashanti’s death will not have been in vain,” said Senator Mark Warner. “Ashanti’s memory will carry on in the lives that will be saved through this new alert system.”
“This law will save lives. It closes a glaring gap in our present alert system. I’m proud to have worked with Senator Mark Warner on the Ashanti Alert Act and championed its quick passage through Congress. This law will create a real-time alert system for missing adults, providing vital information to first responders and helping save lives,” said Blumenthal. “Ashanti’s family should be commended for sharing her story, and turning their grief and loss into meaningful action. Their strength and advocacy will help prevent other families from going through similar tragedies,”said Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). 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.
On September 29, 2018, a Silver Alert was issued for 69-year-old Stephanie Team. Team went missing in Matthews, North Carolina and was found safe 250 miles away in Lynchburg, Virginia.
From the news story at WSLS-TV:
ROANOKE, Va. – According to police, Stephanie Team was found safe in Lynchburg early Sunday morning.
The Town of Matthews Police Department in North Carolina has a silver alert out for one of its residents, Stephanie Team, who was believed to be in the Roanoke area on Saturday evening.
Team, a 69-year-old woman who is 5 feet, 5 inches, wears oval-shaped glasses and is driving a Lexus ES350 with North Carolina tag RSB-4574, according to authorities.
Authorities said Team, who suffers from a cognitive impairment, was last seen by family members leaving the area of Oxborough Drive in Matthews at approximately 4 p.m. on Friday.
The Ashanti Alert system for missing adults is making its way through the Virginia General Assembly
In February 2018, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation proposed by Delegate Jay Jones (D-Norfolk) to create an Ashanti Alert. The Virginia Senate approved Ashanti Alert legislation in early March.
The bill, HB 260, creates the the new Virginia Critically Missing Adult Alert Program. Thanks to Ashanti Alert, law enforcement officials will be able to send a local, regional or statewide alert if they believe a missing person has been abducted and the “disappearance poses a credible threat” to the individual’s health and safety. The Ashanti Alerts will go to the media, who then could inform the public to be on the lookout for the missing adult.
Governor Ralph Northam signed the Ashanti Alert bill into law on April 6, 2018.
The need for more aggressive steps to find missing adults is a pressing concern in Virginia. According to the Capital News Service at Virginia Commonwealth University:
More than 240 adults are missing in Virginia, according to the Virginia State Police. In 2016, a fairly typical year, 14 names were added to the list. But last year, the list grew by 39 names — and so far this year, 17 more people in Virginia have gone missing.
Currently, Virginia authorities issue alerts and mobilize search resources only when people of certain ages go missing:
- If the person is 17 or younger, the state can issue an Amber Alert or an Endangered Missing Child Media Alert.
- If the person is 60 or older, the state can issue a Senior Alert, sometimes called a Silver Alert.
But Virginia hasn’t had an alert system to warn people to look for a missing adult between the ages of 18 and 59 — until now.