President signs Ashanti Alert Act, giving hope to families of missing persons

(Image Source: MGN)
(Image Source: MGN)(KALB)
Published: Jan. 2, 2019 at 8:54 PM CST
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A missing persons advocate says she feels hopeful after hearing the president has passed the Ashanti Alert Act.

President Donald Trump signed the legislation on Monday, just hours before 2018 came to a close.

The Ashanti Alert Act will develop a federal alert system for missing or endangered adults ages 18 to 64. Right now there are no alert systems for missing adults falling into that age category.

Marsha Loritz is founder of Wisconsin Missing Persons Advocacy.

"Maybe they suffer from mental illness. Maybe they're in an abusive relationship. Whatever, there's many reasons that a person goes missing," Loritz says.

Ashanti Billie is the reason this act was passed. The FBI says Billie was 19 years old when she was abducted in Norfolk, Va., on September 18, 2017. Her body was recovered 11 days later.

She was too old for an Amber Alert, too young for a Silver Alert.

Loritz knows the feeling. Her mother, Victoria Prokopovitz, went missing from Pittsfield in 2013. Despite an ongoing reward, she hasn't been found.

The Silver Alert didn't exist then, but even if it did, Prokopovitz wouldn't have qualified.

"She left everything behind -- her purse, her money, her cell phone, her cigarettes -- so there's really no idea what possibly could've happened. She was 59 at the time, so she didn't qualify for a Silver Alert."

Now Loritz has a list of 200 people from Wisconsin currently missing.

The White House press secretary says the new law requires the Department of Justice to create a national communications network, called the Ashanti Alert Communications Network.

"Amber Alerts and stuff go across the radio, roadside signs, you'll get text messages. Silver Alert and Amber Alert, you are able to sign up for the alerts. There's also the Green Alert for missing veterans. So I'm assuming it'll be a lot like that," Loritz says.

The alerts are aimed in helping local and regional search efforts for certain missing adults that meet certain criteria.

"There obviously will be guidelines on who's going to qualify for that," Loritz says, "but it's going to be effective because the Amber Alerts and the Silver Alerts are so effective. People are found within hours and sometimes at most a day or two."

Loritz says those guidelines will help to make sure the alerts aren't overused.

"If there was an alert for every missing person, people would become desensitized, people wouldn't be watching out, because, you don't hear an alert very often; when you hear it, you stop and you look around."

Loritz says the Ashanti Alert will provide families like hers with a very important feeling: Hope.

"Not everyone is going to qualify for an alert, but it give hope for people who maybe do qualify, because those alerts are so effective."