States can apply for Ashanti Alert pilot program funding starting Friday


WASHINGTON (WAVY) — States can apply for federal funding for the Ashanti Alert pilot program starting Friday.

Sen. Mark Warner has repeatedly called for implementation of the alert.

The alert is named after Ashanti Billie, the 19-year-old college student abducted from Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in 2017. Billie’s body was found days later in North Carolina. 

The alert was created and named after her because at the time of her abduction, she was too old for an AMBER Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. The Ashanti Alert notifies the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, and assists law enforcement in the search by way of a national communications network.

The Ashanti Alert Act was implemented in Virginia within three months. It was signed into law by President Trump last year.

On Thursday, the Bureau of Justice Assistance held a national webinar to encourage states to integrate the Ashanti Alert within their existing statewide alert systems.

The BJA will make $1 million in technical assistance available to facilitate and expedite the development of statewide Ashanti Alert programs, Warner’s office wrote in a news release.

Warner says this is an important step foward in getting states more information on this life-saving tool.

“Today’s national webinar on the Ashanti Alert system took an important step forward in getting states more information on this life-saving tool,” said Warner. “The input by Virginia state officials during today’s discussion underscores how this alert system can effectively assist in the search of a missing individual. It’s my hope that states across the country will apply to the pilot program and implement this tool into their existing networks in an effort to save lives and pay tribute to Ashanti, a young Virginian who was taken from her family too soon.”

“On behalf of Ashanti Markaila Billie, ourselves the parents and the entire Billie family, we extend our thanks to Senator Warner and the Department of Justice. Through their diligence and dedication to the Ashanti Alert, we are now seeing the first fruits of our labor in implementation,” said Meltony and Brandy Billie, parents of Ashanti Billie. “Today’s training webinar marks a milestone towards final implementation. We look forward to the continued progress of the Ashanti Alert and its potential to save American lives.”

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