newswarner demands answers from youngkin administration on deployment of ashanti alerts

Warner demands answers from Youngkin administration on deployment of Ashanti Alerts

Crystal Graham
missing person
(© freshidea –

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) has questions for the administration of Gov. Glenn Youngkin in how Virginia is using the Ashanti Alert, a service set up to quickly send information to law enforcement, media and the public, about adults who have been reported missing. In cases of suspected abduction, suspect information is also included.

Warner is demanding answers to address concerns about the lack of alerts that have been issued in Virginia.

In a letter to the Youngkin administration, Warner writes: “Since the enactment of the state law in 2018, there have been eight Ashanti Alerts issued in Virginia. Data provided by the Virginia State Police (VSP) indicates that, of the eight alerts, three victims were safely located, three victims were found murdered, and two victims are currently unaccounted for. Based on these results, I am deeply concerned that the Ashanti Alert, as currently implemented, is not living up to its full potential.”

Warner shares the story of a Virginia Beach resident who was found murdered – that could have been found alive if the alert had been issued promptly.

“The story of Marie Covington underscores this concern. Ms. Covington was last seen on August 17, 2022 at 9:57pm and was reported missing to Virginia Beach Police (VBP) by her family on August 18, 2022 at 10:25pm.

“Despite Covington’s disappearance meeting the activation criteria, VSP did not issue an Ashanti Alert until August 20, 2022 at 9:50pm – two days after she was reported missing.

“In that time period, police had already located her car, which was driven by the individual who was later arrested for her murder. The Ashanti Alert was issued only two hours before she was found deceased.

“The Ashanti Alert program was created to facilitate cooperation and improve communication between public safety entities, with the ultimate goal of saving the lives of endangered individuals.

“To that end, it is imperative that Ashanti Alerts in Virginia be issued promptly to maximize their effectiveness and serve their purpose,” Warner wrote in his letter.

In order to ensure proper use of the alert, Warner requested answers to the following questions:

  • What proportion of missing persons cases result in the issuance of an Ashanti Alert?
  • In a specific case, who is responsible for making the determination that “abduction poses a credible threat,” as required by the Ashanti Alert program?
  • What policies govern the substance of this determination?
  • What policies govern the timing of this determination?
  • Were these policies revised as a result of the delay in the Covington case?
  • Why was an Ashanti Alert not issued in the Covington case until two days after Marie Covington was reported missing?
  • In the seven cases for which we do not have data, how much time elapsed between the missing person report and the issuance of an Ashanti Alert?
  • Who has general oversight authority over the implementation of the Ashanti Alert law?
  • If there is no state official with this authority, why not?

Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of the Ashanti Alert Act through the Senate on Dec. 6, 2018, and the bill was signed into law on Dec. 31, 2018.

Since its implementation, Warner has consistently secured $1 million annually in government spending to support states who chose to implement an Ashanti Alert system. This funding is included in the Fiscal Year 2023 government spending bill that is being considered in the Senate.

A full copy of the letter is available here.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.