Area law enforcement officials said the law that will create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18 and 64 is another tool to help their efforts.
President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law Monday. The Ashanti Alert Act is named for Ashanti Billie, 19, who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia, on Sept. 18, 2017. Her body was found in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing.
"While the Decatur Police Department already releases missing persons alerts to the local media, the Ashanti Alert System elevates the notification process to a national public outlet,” said Decatur police spokeswoman Emily Long.
The new system will provide Decatur police with “another great investigative tool but will not impact our process," Long said.
“The new law should help law enforcement everywhere, especially with cases of human trafficking,” said Limestone County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Stephen Young.
The existing Amber and Silver alert systems have proven to be effective, Young said.
“Filling in the age gap to include those not covered before provides the ability to use the alert system to quickly find victims in every age group,” he said.
According to a statement from U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, Billie was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert at the time of her abduction.
The statement said the Ashanti Alert, like other alert systems, would notify the public about missing or endangered adults through a national communications network to help law enforcement in searches.
“Because we’re so close to Tennessee, I think it’ll help us,” said Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson. “It’s definitely positive.”
The Athens Police Department disseminates information on missing persons though social media and the Nixle alert system, Johnson said.
“We already have the ability to quickly reach out to other agencies,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be a good program,” said Falkville Police Chief Chris Free. “From what I do know about (the system), it can only help.”
The Ashanti Alert bill was proposed early last year by outgoing Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia and passed in both houses of Congress last month.
In Virginia, a statewide Ashanti Alert system had been signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam in June.
A federal grand jury last month returned an indictment charging a Navy veteran with the September 2017 kidnapping of Billie, resulting in her death.