BOLO - Be on the Look Out

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Most of the time, if you hear a police officer talk about a BOLO, she doesn't mean a kind of whip or a southwestern-style tie. In law enforcement terms, BOLO is an acronym for the phrase "Be On the Look Out."

BOLO's are issued to police officers based on specific criminal intelligence. They include information on illegal activity, from reckless driving to robbery and homicide. BOLO's usually contain details about a crime suspect and include estimated age, race, height, and weight.

  If it applies, they will also give vehicle and clothing descriptions to officers. 

What Are Other Terms for "BOLO"?

In the United States and beyond, police officers are known for talking in codes and slang. In fact, sometimes it may seem like police officers are speaking an entirely different language. "BOLO"  is one of those slang words.

A BOLO is more accurately called an "All Points Bulletin (APB)." These information bulletins are sent to police officers across all points of a jurisdiction, into neighboring jurisdictions, and even across the country through dispatchers.

Another term for BOLO is "Attempt To Locate (ATL)." While they may contain information about criminal activity or suspects, BOLOs are usually called  "attempts to locate" when officers are asked to check on someone's welfare, as opposed to describing an arrest situation.

When Are BOLOs Issued to Police Officers?

Police dispatchers issue BOLO's when a crime has occurred and they have information that could lead to finding clues or to an arrest.

This information may come from the original 911 caller or from other officers as they arrive on the scene of a situation.

BOLO's are also issued when there's a concern for a person's - or potential victim's - welfare or safety, especially if it looks like it might be a missing persons case.

Amber Alerts, for example, are forms of BOLO's that are issued when a child is kidnapped and in danger.

 BOLO's are also issued when disabled adults or elderly people have gone missing. 

What Does an Officer Do When He Gets a BOLO?

When they receive a BOLO, police officers keep their eyes out for the person, suspect or vehicle. Depending on the nature of the BOLO - especially if someone is in danger or if the police are looking for a particularly dangerous suspect, they may either actively or passively look for the person.

When they locate the person listed in the BOLO, police officers can hold him temporarily to find out whether or not he is in fact the suspect in the bulletin. 

If it is a criminal BOLO and they can confirm the suspect, they will arrest him. In a welfare check BOLO, the officers will make sure the person is safe.

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