When a United States law enforcement agency is searching for a suspect or person of interest, they often issue an all-points bulletin, or APB for short. An all-points bulletin is an electronic transmission that sends information regarding the suspect, or person of interest, from one law enforcement agency to other law enforcement agencies across the country. The purpose of an all-points bulletin is to alert other law enforcement agencies to the search for a person so that they can apprehend the person if they encounter him or her.
It is not necessary that there be an official arrest warrant issued for a person to be the subject of an all-points bulletin. In fact, an APB may be issued for missing persons or witnesses to a crime as well. Prior to the Amber Alert system in the United States, an APB was frequently issued when a child was believed to be abducted. Now, an all-points bulletin may be issued in conjunction with other alert systems, such as the Amber Alert system.
An APB may also be issued for a "person of interest." A person of interest is a term used by the police when they want to find someone to interview him or her, but are not prepared to call him or her a suspect yet. In some cases, the person may ultimately become a suspect, while, in others, the person may be an essential witness to a crime. When the subject of an all-points bulletin is a person of interest, a law enforcement officer who happens upon him or her generally cannot take the person into custody, but may inform the issuing agency of the person's whereabouts.
When the subject of an APB is a suspect in a crime and an arrest warrant has been issued, then the law enforcement officer who encounters him or her may take the person into custody. In today's digital age, an arrest warrant is likely to pop up if a wanted person gets stopped by law enforcement for even a minor traffic infraction; however, if an officer has no reason to stop an individual, then a wanted person may evade capture for a significant amount of time. By issuing an all-points bulletin, law enforcement officers across the country can proactively be looking for a wanted criminal instead of counting on a random encounter to locate him or her.
Many jurisdictions across the world use a similar system for communicating between law enforcement agencies. The United Kingdom, for instance, issues an "all-points warning," or APW, for the same reasons an APB is issued in the United States. The Australian counterpoint to an APB is a "keep a look out for," or KALOF.