Background

The Virginia Senior Alert Plan was created in 2007 by the Virginia General Assembly. The alert program provides a valuable tool for Virginia law enforcement agencies to help locate a missing “senior adult,” who is over 60 years of age and suffers a cognitive impairment, including a diagnosis of Alzheimer‘s Disease or dementia, to the extent that he/she is unable to provide care to him/herself without assistance from a caregiver, and whose disappearance poses a credible threat as determined by a law-enforcement agency to the health and safety of the adult.

This plan is available for use by all Virginia law enforcement agencies and can be used as a primary alert plan or as a supplement to a regional plan. A Senior Alert provides the news media of Virginia with an opportunity to contribute to the communities they serve. This alert also includes notification via use of a Twitter account @VSPalerts and Facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice.

Virginia’s Critically Missing Adult Alert Program, also known as the “Ashanti Alert,” was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 2018. A "critically missing adult" is defined as an adult (1) whose whereabouts are unknown; (2) who is believed to have been abducted; and (3) whose disappearance poses a credible threat to the health and safety of the adult as determined by a law-enforcement agency.

This plan is available for use by all Virginia law enforcement agencies and can be used as a primary alert plan or as a supplement to a regional plan. An Ashanti Alert provides the news media of Virginia with an opportunity to contribute to the communities they serve. This alert also includes notification by means of a Twitter account @VSPalerts and Facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice.

This alert is named for Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old Maryland woman who was abducted from her place of employment in Norfolk, Virginia. An alert was not issued during the search for Billie as her case did not fall under the three alert categories that existed at the time: AMBER, Senior, and Blue. Her remains were found two weeks later in North Carolina; her abductor was later identified and charged in her death. In 2019, a bill creating the National Ashanti Alert was signed into federal law.

The Virginia General Assembly established the Commonwealth‘s AMBER Alert Plan in 2003. AMBER stands for America‘s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. For those child abduction incidents that fulfill the AMBER Plan activation criteria, radio and television stations immediately interrupt programming to broadcast information using the EAS, a system typically used for weather or other civil emergencies. Today, the Virginia AMBER Alert also includes notification via Wireless Emergency Alerts, use of a Twitter account @VSPalerts and Facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice, electronic message boards, and an array of other communications systems.

The plan is simple — to alert the public as quickly as possible to a child abduction in hopes of gaining information which will lead to the safe recovery of that child and capture of the abductor. More information on the national AMBER Plan is available at https://amberalert.ojp.gov.

The AMBER Alert Plan is named after Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old Arlington, Texas girl who was abducted in 1996 while riding her bicycle. Sadly, her body was found four days later. In response to community concern following this tragedy, the Association of Radio Managers, with the assistance of Texas law enforcement, created the first emergency alert plan designed to expedite search and recovery efforts for abducted children.

The Endangered Child Alert is a component of the Virginia AMBER Alert. When a missing child incident fails to fulfill all AMBER Alert criteria or in the case of a parental/guardian custody issue that has put a child at risk, the Virginia State Police will issue an “Endangered Child Alert.” This alert is available for use by all Virginia law enforcement agencies and provides the news media of Virginia with an opportunity to contribute to the communities they serve. This alert also includes notification by means of a Twitter account @VSPalerts and Facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice.

The Virginia Missing Child with Autism Alert Plan was created by legislation in the 2020 General Assembly. The law sets out the following criteria for activation: an individual (1) whose whereabouts are unknown; (2) who has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as defined in § 38.2-3418.17; (3) who is 17 years of age or younger or is currently enrolled in a secondary school in the Commonwealth, regardless of age; and (4) whose disappearance poses a credible threat as determined by law enforcement to the safety and health of the individual.

This plan is available for use by all Virginia law enforcement agencies and can be used as a primary alert plan or as a supplement to a regional plan. A Missing Child with Autism Alert provides the news media of Virginia with an opportunity to contribute to the communities they serve. This alert also includes notification by means of a Twitter account @VSPalerts and Facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice.

The Virginia Blue Alert was established in 2011 by the Virginia General Assembly to aid in the location of a suspect who has killed or severely injured a law enforcement officer, or of a law enforcement officer whose disappearance while on duty has put that officer’s life at risk.

An activation of this alert requires confirmation by the Virginia State Police that (1) a suspect has not been apprehended; (2) the suspect may be a serious threat to the public; and (3) sufficient information is available to disseminate to the public for assistance in locating the suspect. The Virginia Blue Alert may also be activated when the Virginia State Police has been notified by a law enforcement agency that a law enforcement officer is missing while on duty under circumstances warranting concern for his or her safety.

This plan is available for use by all Virginia law enforcement agencies and can be used as a primary alert plan or as a supplement to a regional plan. A Blue Alert provides the news media of Virginia with an opportunity to contribute to the communities they serve. This alert also includes notification by means of a Twitter account @VSPalerts and Facebook.com/VirginiaStatePolice.