“My first morning (after Jessica Heeringa went missing from the store she worked at), I was definitely shaky coming in,” said James, the manager of Spinners Corner Grocery in Robinson Township. “I’ve taken extra precautions myself.”
James now carries pepper spray, is much more aware of her surroundings, and is quick to lock the doors at the convenience store and gas station.
James said she always felt safe working at the rural gas station prior to the Heeringa abduction. James now makes sure she shines her headlights around the building if she arrives when it’s dark.
Spinners owners Amar and Neet Multani said they’ve taken steps over the years to make sure their employees are safe.
“We feel strongly that these girls are our family,” Neet said. “We care for them as we care for our own children.”
There was already a camera system operating at Spinners when the Multanis bought the store seven years ago. The couple, who moved to the area from California, said they immediately upgraded the system and added more cameras.
The store where police said Heeringa was abducted April 26 did not have surveillance cameras in operation. The store owner has since had them installed.
State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, said both she and State Rep. Collene Lamonte, D-Montague, are working on legislation that would require all gas stations and convenience stores in Michigan to have security cameras.
“I have submitted (on May 1) a request for a bill that has surveillance cameras, security cash protection devices, and drop boxes for convenience stores and gas stations,” Hovey-Wright said. “We’re also looking at other states to see what is being done. That research sometimes takes awhile."
Hovey-Wright said there has been some discussion about requiring two employees on the job during evening hours, but that might be too expensive for some store owners. She said they want to meet with police and store owners to get the idea of the impact of cameras or staffing, and to see what would make a difference.
Meanwhile, police are still searching for Heeringa.
An anonymous tip led to a three-hour search Tuesday on Grand Haven's Harbor Island. Norton Shores Police Chief Dan Shaw said a state police K-9 unit did not locate anything relevant to the case.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.