A new piece of federal legislation could change how missing person information is broadcast when the disappearance involves someone age 18 or older.
The legislation is called the Ashanti Alert, named after 19-year-old Ashanti M. Billie who went missing in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in September 2017.
The bill, which will be introduced to the U.S. Senate by Virginia Senator Mark Warner, hopes to utilize an Amber Alert-style system that would notify the public when an adult aged 18 to 65 goes missing.
The bill has already been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives after being introduced by Virginia Rep. Scott W. Taylor, The Washington Post reports.
Ashanti went missing on September 18, 2017, while heading to work at a Blimpie's on a naval base in Norfolk, Virginia. It took 11 days for law enforcement to locate Ashanti's body, time where her parents, Meltony Billie and Brandy Billie, could only wait and worry.
The Billies had learned early after Ashanti went missing that she was too old to qualify for an Amber Alert, the national system that notifies Americans of the disappearance of a child via media blasts and cell phone alerts.
The Ashanti Alert system would work in a similar manner, albeit with strict criteria established to determine when the system should be used for adults. Unlike in cases of missing children, there is a certain expectation of privacy and independence for adults that could mean someone has merely gone off the grid rather than being a victim of foul play.
The state of Virginia has already enacted the Critically Missing Adult Alert Program, which is nicknamed the Ashanti Alert. The program notifies local, state and regional police to alerts for adults that fit the criteria established within the CMAAP.
On a national level, Ashanti Alerts would enfold into the Blue Alert system, a program created in 2014 after New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were ambushed and killed while on duty. The Blue Alert system notifies the public when a suspect who has killed or assaulted a police officer remains at large.
The criteria established under the House Bill requires the hiring of a national coordinator to create guidelines for issuing an Ashanti Alert. After the system has been implemented for a year, the coordinator will report to Congress how many states elected to use the system, how many alerts were broadcast, and how effective the system was in locating missing persons.
Approximately 200 Amber Alerts are issued every year, The Washington Post reports. Most of those alerts result in the child being rescued safely.
For Ashanti's parents, the passing of the bill would mean their daughter's death had a purpose.
“It would mean her sacrifice was for a greater good just like Jesus’ sacrifice was for a greater good. This alert will keep us lifted," Meltony Billie told The Washington Post.
Correction, 12/7, 10:15 a.m.: This story originally said Rep. Scott Taylor was from West Virginia; he is from Virginia. It also said the bill would be introduced by West Virginia Senator Mark Warren; this has been corrected to Virginia Senator Mark Warner.