The Meaning of APB: What It Is and How To Use It

This guide will provide all the information you need on the acronym APB, including its definition, origin, sentence examples, and more!

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What does APB stand for?

According to, APB – pronounced “eɪpiːˈbiː” – is an abbreviation that stands for all points bulletin. This is a broadcast alert from one police station to the other police stations in the area, whether that be city-wide or state-wide. The APB provides descriptions and instructions on arresting a particular person of interest or wanted person.

The acronym APB is similar to the acronyms BOLO or BOL, which stand for be on the lookout. This is another abbreviation frequently used by police. According to Cleverism, BOLO and BOL are also used by law enforcement agents to send information to surrounding officers in other areas of a city, county, or state, so other areas know to be on the lookout for a suspect or fugitive that is on the run.

Another acronym used by police that is similar to APB, BOL, and BOLO is ATL, which stands for attempt to locate, according to Acronym Finder.

APBs, ATLs, and BOLOs/BOLs are all used interchangeably by law enforcement to alert the public and other precincts and law enforcement departments to be on high alert for missing persons, stolen items, suspects, fugitives, or criminals.

Included in an APB is whatever information the officers have on the suspect or subject. This can include gender, race, skin color, hair color, heigh and weight estimations, clothing descriptions, and means of transport. If it is a stolen object, such as a car, this will include the make and model of the car, as well as the color and license plate number, or any other unique details like stickers, dents, or other things that make it stand out, if known. The APB attempts to include as much information as possible so police enforcement officers can narrow down their search.

APBs help law enforcement agencies to apprehend the correct suspect. Having as detailed a description as possible ensures other officers will arrest the correct person and not innocent people. The more detailed the APB, the more likely that the officers will arrest the actual criminal, find the stolen items, or the missing persons.

An APB can also be a public alert, which will warn not only law enforcement officers, but members of the public if they need to be on the lookout for a missing person, stolen item, or dangerous criminal. This way, the public will not only be more on alert for keeping themselves safe, but for reporting any sighting to law enforcement to narrow down a search area.

How is APB used in a sentence?

Below are three examples of APBs: one for a suspect, one for a missing person, and one for a stolen item. When a police is calling out an APB, they usually start with the phrase, “APB out on.”

“APB out on a Caucasian male, brown hair, roughly six foot two, two hundred pounds, driving a black SUV.”

“APB out on a missing child, seven year old Hispanic female, brown hair, brown eyes, last seen riding her bike to the park in a pink sweatsuit.”

“APB out on a stolen 2010 silver Honda Civic. Large dent on the rear bumper.”

In casual vernacular, one could say, “The police put an APB out on someone who looks a lot like that creepy guy we saw at the bowling alley.”

What are synonyms for APB in non-police vernacular?

In casual vernacular, the following phrases could be used interchangeably with the acronym APB, according to Interglot, an online thesaurus. Their definitions are provided by Oxford Languages.

·      Keep an eye out – Phrase meaning look out for something particular.

·      Be on the lookout – Phrase meaning to stay alert, particularly for danger or trouble, or to keep searching for something.

·      Watch out for – Be careful, aware, or on high alert for something.

·      Look out for – Phrasal verb meaning stay vigilant and take notice of.

What is the origin of APB?

According to US Legal and Etymonline, the term dates back to 1960, which is the first time the acronym itself was used. The term all-points bulletin was established in 1953, where it was used more frequently in detective novels than by police themselves.

Why do police use jargon like APB?

Cleverism also states that police frequently use abbreviations or other law enforcement jargon to keep information short and to the point, so that officers can act as quickly as possible. Many may think that police use such a vernacular to keep information private or encrypted from the public, but this is not the case. While these may seem like slang terms, they are incredibly useful to officers in the United States and around the world.

For law enforcement, every second matters. Any code that can shorten the reaction time could mean a life saved or a criminal captured. The quicker they can blast out information, the quicker the officers can act and attempt to save lives.

Usually, police dispatchers are responsible for putting these signals out to the rest of the officers in the surrounding area. Sometimes they are also 911 operators, which means that they will both receive the calls from victims or witnesses and then dispatch them to law enforcement, firefighters, or EMTs.

Overall, APB is used predominantly by law enforcement to mean all-points bulletin. This acronym is used when police release a dispatch to surrounding areas to be on high alert for a wanted or missing person, or stolen item. Police will also sometimes release APBs to the public in they need to look out for a missing person or item, or if they should keep themselves safe from a dangerous criminal or suspect. APB can be used interchangeably with the acronyms BOL and BOLO, which mean be on the lookout, and ATL, which means attempt to locate.