Jessica Heeringa Act would protect late-night clerks

A Michigan legislator on Monday announced a bill to require gas stations and convenience stores that stay open between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to have two employees working or to install security cameras.
AP Wire
Dec 9, 2013

The bill unveiled in Muskegon County comes after the April disappearance of a 26-year-old woman from her job at a Norton Shores gas station. Jessica Heeringa's mother and local law enforcement attended the news conference.

"I believe these measures go a long way to preventing the kind of anguish endured by her family," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Collene Lamonte, D-Montague.

Heeringa disappeared before she was set to close the station, where she was working alone. Police said there was no indication of a robbery.

The gas station had no security cameras, leaving authorities without potential clues. The reward for information in the case is more than $15,000.

"I think if a security camera were in place, Jessica would still be here today," said her mother, Shelly Heeringa.

The proposed law would be called the Jessica Heeringa Act. Lamonte said three states have laws similar to her bill.


Mystic Michael

About time! How about a minimum of two employees working the overnight shift PLUS security cameras?

How is it that a law of this type has not already been on the books in Michigan for the past several decades? Surely this particular case is not the first time that late-night crime (i.e. robbery, assault, kidnapping, etc.) has ever occurred at a gas station or convenience store? How much critical mass of crime must accumulate, and for how many years, before someone finally gets the idea to actually address it, as this wise state legislator in Montague has done?


I think most of us were surprised it was still up to the owners to provide anything for their employees protection without having a law being passed to tell them 'how to run their business'. Next thing you know they will pass a law doubling minimum wage and put everyone out of business! It MUST cut down on profits to have to have an extra employee or monitor system...but I digress. This is a good thing to come from a bad thing.


How does someone go from making the best comment of the year to making the most ignorant comment of the year in one day? Vvv Ask Rukidding vvvv


Well, although I feel terrible for Jessica and her family, I don't think letting the government get more involved in private business is the answer. In my opinion Jessica shouldn't have been working alone at night, that is a job for man, a bouncer type even. This is a job she obviously accepted, maybe even with hesitation, but she did accept it as she was at work when the incident occurred.

We can't have the government telling us who to hire and the number of people to have working, this is still a "free enterprise" country. How can we allow the government to dictate our payroll percentage; we can’t. How about we dictate the age of employees, sex, body type, etc. as I have some ideas on who I would like to be served by in many establishments.

This incident is very sad but both the employee and employer are at fault here. Should there have been better controls, video, a second worker; remember hindsight is 20/20. Should Jessica have said I won't work that shift alone, it's dangerous; maybe so, but how often do things like this occur in our quiet corner of the world?

I personally don’t think this law, or business requirement, has a snow balls chance in hell of passing as it is currently written. Common sense needs to come into play at some point. You schedule your employees based on need, capability, security, and desired customer service, not because the State requires you to increase your payroll by adding additional persons to a specific shift.

I think all restaurants need to hire 3 times as many busers and dishwashers, it takes to long to clear the tables and my dishes aren’t always clean. I want my dishes buffed and polished, no water spots on the silver or glasses. Oh, and I don’t want anymore plastic glasses either, only the real thing, I prefer crystal as well so lets write that into some law. Oh, and I want only beautiful women, I’m talking model types here, to be employed in restaurants, it aids in my digestion. While were at it, I want my mechanic to change his overalls every time they get a little grease on them, and for crying out loud he needs to have cleaner fingernails.

Really, are you kidding me, we are actually contemplating letting the state pass this? I know it sounds good, might even ease some pain, a law with Jessica’s name on it, and how it might help someone else in the future. This won’t bring Jessica back and it’s a very bad precedent to set.


In principle, I agree with having fewer and better enforced laws. A good example is the issue of allowing smoking in restaurants. However, in this case, there is a safety issue that hasn't been addressed by the business owner. Textile factories used to burn up their employees 100 years ago because there was inadequate means of egress in emergencies. The factory owners didn't change this on their own and the employees were compelled for their survival to work there anyway. This isn't all that different. Yes, the young lady could have refused the shift, but this is risky in terms of employment and she might have overlooked the risk.

Maybe a less specific legislation would be to revoke the business license of any business owner who loses an employee during the course of business?


Your reasonableness is overshadowed by the massive push for deregulation. The Koch Bros - the original founders and funders of the Tea Party that began over a decade ago (and Koch Industries, I might add, is in the Top Ten of biggest polluters in the country) - gave $20 million to George Mason University to establish a deregulation think tank, the Mercatus Center. One of the most highly funded conservative think tanks in the country, it is considered "ground zero for deregulation issues". Deregulation is Big Business, and a great deal of time, energy, and money is going into the craft of weakening, sidestepping, nullifying, and rewriting regulations to benefit Big Business, of course - certainly not citizens.

I would suspect that in the case of this proposed legislation, the wisdom coming from the Mercatus Center would be that the safety measures would unnecessarily impinge on the costs of doing business and create an economic hardship on the ability of the owners to make a profit. Let market forces dictate whether the individual owners decide whether or not to install safety measures if they find they can not hire decent workers or business falls off when news gets out that their station is a dangerous place to stop for gas or snacks.


What a flawed logic. So should we just have anarchy? How much less government do we need? None?


"How much less government do we need?" -LOTS!!!! they can't effectively enforce all the BS laws we have now! Stores that choose not to abide by this proposed law will not suffer consequence until something happens, so what good is the law at 'protecting' people?

some people i guess need to have every aspect of their life decided by someone else, to them I say get a back bone!


So by your logic we should have no government? What should they be able to tell us to do? You tell me the ideal guidelines for what the government should and should not be able to tell us to do.


i did not say that we should have no government! I want an effective and lean government that works for the people (which has not been the case for the last 125 years). If it doesn't violate the rights of others, and is in accordance with the bill of rights, the government has no business poking in. Furthermore, this is yet again a private sector of business and once again the gov. should not be butting in.

I am sick of seeing grieving families adversely affect others. For example, the mom that had cell phones banned for teens in cars which violates the Bill of Rights, trayvon's parents & sandy hook parents pushing for gun control measures which blatantly violates the bill of rights, these are just a couple recent big ones but there are thousands of examples and even local ones like this out there and it has become ridiculous and needs to stop!


I'm not entirely deaf to your pleas regarding the potential for over-regulation of business, but there can be no question that, left to their own devices, big business would still be dumping waste and pollutants into our streams, lakes, and groundwater; scimping pennies on worker safety measures; and abusing workers and consumers in as many ways as they can get away with. The largest oil spill on US soil - Enbridge, right here in Kalamazoo - comes to mind. Do you really think they would have cleaned their mess up in a timely manner if the EPA wasn't on top of the situation?

It's a matter of balance. And who exactly has being adversely affected by, say, the advocacy of MADD - chronic drunk drivers?


while I hear you, and would even agree to a degree; but timely manner on cleaning up the oil spill??...its still not finished.

There is a fine line between being a free society and being over regulated (i think we are over regulated). The EPA is enforcing the laws that you mentioned here in the US, however, these laws have pushed big business to go overseas where those laws don't exist. So is it better to not pollute here but do it somewhere else (out of sight out of mind)? Furthermore, these excessive laws have caused us to lose business for the reasons described above and i believe is a major contributor to the continued recession.

having a few good laws that are enforceable vs. having tons of BS laws that can not be enforced. Which should we waste lawmakers time with?


I'm not convinced that Big Business has invested overseas primarily due to US regulation, although they spend big money to make us think so. It's tough to do business everywhere - even China. You might find this interesting: China is still risky for foreign businesses -


Environmental protections (or lack thereof elsewhere) may not be the sole or primary cause of business moving overseas, but there is no denying the cost of compliance with environmental regulations (which I support.)

To the earlier poster, pollution is not 'better' 'over there', but if we did not regulate here, we would have pollution here AND there. (Selfishly, I am more concerned with pollution closer to home, but air pollution knows no true geographical bounds.) The problem is that we Americans (mostly) want environmental protections, increased costs and all, yet we send our money overseas for products that were built without those protections. If Americans understood and wanted to buy products that were made under protective laws, as good stewards of the Earth, then we would all pay a lot more (or consume less) and there would be less pollution in the world. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us just see the price tag and choose unwisely (myself included.)


I will use this "double post edit" to acknowledge that I have digressed from the original topic...

Mystic Michael

How exactly does regulating cell phone use violate the Bill of Rights? Which article specifically? What exactly is being "violated", and how? Spell it out, please.

Likewise, how does regulating gun use violate the Bill of Rights (I assume you're referring to the Second Amendment)? Are you implying that the Second Amendment guarantees that no guns can be regulated, in any way, shape or form, under any circumstances, ever? If so, then you clearly do not understand the Second Amendment.

deuce liti

I agree with you that the government should not have to get involved. It's just sad that business owner greed basically swells until the government is forced to step in.

Should they look out for the welfare of their employees as a sound investment in their product? Yep.

Unfortunately people try to get away with everything on both sides of the fence and that's why laws have to regulate their behavior.

A business that does take care of it's employees well is a diamond in the rough rather than the standard.

Oh greed, is there no extent to which you will go?

Someone was saying too much regulation was driving business out of our country: so we want business to do whatever they want because they have money?

Did someone say money?

The financial crisis of 2008 was because there is no regulation. See the Documentary, "The Inside Job."

We cannot trust ourselves. Even our government is made up of us, that's why it will never work.

Mystic Michael

That's it, RU. Blame the victim. Standard rhetorical practice for conservatives who insist upon finding a loophole in the real world.

And I suppose that in that world, people have the luxury of turning down gainful employment - even when the choice comes down to take the job and take the risk...or do without a job entirely? You live in West Michigan. Yet you still don't grasp that reality?

And I suppose that in that world, employers never do anything unethical or unscrupulous? They never take risks with the safety and lives of their employees - for the sake of saving some money? So that the state never has a compelling reason to step into the resulting vacuum?

Accept it or not, but there are actual limits to "laissez faire" capitalism. EVERYONE in our society has responsibilities, as well as rights - and that includes business. They don't get a free pass to do whatever they like, even at the risk of people's lives, simply because they're "free enterprise". Individual freedom is a relative quality - not an absolute one - and must always be balanced against the public interest of people to live their lives free from unreasonable threats to their lives, their safety, and their general well-being. This has always has been the case - whether you're prepared to acknowledge it or not.

Comparing the fate of an innocent young woman who was simply doing her job, to your potential inconvenience in a restaurant, demonstrates just how primitive & immature your arguments really are, RU. It's all very nice to feel terrible for Jessica and her family. But when you oppose a reasonable, common-sense proposal that would make the likelihood of another Jessica Heeringa episode less likely to occur in future, simply because it conflicts with your out-of-touch ideology, then your terrible feelings become pretty much meaningless. Because you have become part of the problem.


soon it will become a town like muskegon and grand rapids, pay before you fill, cashiers with bullet proof glass, i see many stations are closing at 9:00pm for a good reason or maybe many, not all will just eliminate 2nd or 3rd shift to avoid additional cost

Michael Johnson

I would suggest those angry with the idea of "more government" represented by this decision should turn their anger on the irresponsible owners of businesses who have failed the basic tests of decency, humanity, and responsibility, thus demonstrating the fact that businesses left to their own devices will not have the best interests of their employees at heart unless forced to. It's their fault laws like this become necessary. Oh, and does it surprise me that I actually saw what I momentarily thought was going to be unthinkable in these comments, that someone actually suggested obliquely that Jessica Heeringa shares some of the blame for what happened to her by accepting the situation in which she worked? this community, it frankly doesn't surprise me at all.

Mystic Michael



This is not enough! They should be REQUIRED to have a security guard on premises AT ALL TIMES! There should be an attack dog readily available in case anything is out of order! If you can't afford 2 employees, a security guard, a state of the art PTZ security camera system, and a fully trained and licensed attack dog then you SHOULD NOT be running a store!


definitely not smart enough to be a small business owner


Let's try to stay on topic instead of attacking me for being right.

We need more regulation! All businesses should have to pay an employee safety tax that goes towards hiring more police officers. If we could double our police presence we could keep these criminals in line! All businesses should have police check-ups where the police officers come do a walk-through a few times per night! PUT YOUR TAX DOLLARS TO WORK PEOPLE!


I don't think your hyperbole is making your point very well. CostCo sells wireless, Internet-stored, home-accessible security systems for well under $1000. The proposal does not create any unreasonable burden.


Hyperbole? I'm not talking about football...

These CostCo systems aren't enough though. Making all business owners sign up for CostCo memberships is a great idea and clearly a step in the right direction, but we need people to watch these cameras! Two people watching the cameras would be preferable, that way if the first one has to go to the bathroom the second one can keep a close eye on the situation.


I will ignore the facetiousness and say:
1. Of course the law would not mandate where the camera system must be purchased.
2. Cameras are useful as forensic tools and are still effective as such without continuous monitoring. They also have deterrent value.

You started out opposed to government regulation but now you seem to make a case that surveillance cameras in convenience stores are a bad idea generally. Had cameras been running the night Herrenga disappeared, there would be much less mystery regarding the disappearance. Unfortunately, in this case a business owner made a decision to not apply security measures that are pretty typical for his sector - presumably because the potential value of lost GOODS did not make it worth the cost. Oops. Too bad he had a choice.


By the way, I didn't catch the football joke, unless it relies on a mispronunciation of 'hyperbole', in which case I will laugh accordingly.


Where are you getting these ideas?? I am 100% for all of this! We are pronouncing tomato the same way.


Interesting contrasting viewpoints, although I don't think a gas station convenience store can logically be compared with GE, Apple, Exxon and those criminal "big businesses."

Although I firmly believe that a smaller, less intrusive government is the best way for us to protect our individual liberties and freedoms, in this case I actually would support a government solution: Get rid of the ever increasing rights of criminals and support a criminal justice system that ensures, to the extent possible, that criminals will face quick and certain punishment for the crimes they commit, such that they would have to seriously consider the implications of criminal behavior.

If we have to pass a law, maybe a better "Jessica's Law" would be one that required all persons working alone at night to undertake firearms training paid for by the owner of the business, and armed with an appropriate firearm purchased on their behalf by the owner of the business. Government solution -check; protection of the employee - check; costs paid by the business - check; deterrent effect of criminals knowing their victims will be armed and trained - double check. Who could argue with this logical, reasonable, commonsense solution (unless the intruder is a deer in Grand Haven, in which case the clerks would have to be armed with a weapon dispensing contraceptives).


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