Has it helped? In July, police negotiators were able to successfully talk a would-be jumper into coming down off the cables.
But Rupert’s response raises the question of how far do you go to spend taxpayer’s money to protect people from themselves? Should the Latino community be doing more to address the suicide issue given the statistics cited by Salazar and which can easily be found on the Internet?
The studies show this may be a serious mental health issue. Minority adolescents reported significantly higher rates of symptoms and thought of depression than did their Anglo counterparts.
However, there are other issues such as the cost of erecting so-called “suicide barriers” and issues over their disturbing the aesthetics of existing bridges.
The city of Toledo went to the expense of adding lights to the High Level in 1985.
Unlike the High Level, however, the Maumee River Crossing Bridge, currently under construction, does not have any walkways. A would-be jumper who plans to stop and park his car on the bridge may accomplish his goal easier by just stopping in the busy traffic on the interstate highway crossing the span.
Do “suicide barriers” work? According to published reports, the Empire State Building, the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia, the Duomo at St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal were all suicide magnets before barriers were erected on them.
At Prince Edward Viaduct in Toronto, the site of nearly 500 fatal jumps, engineers constructed a $4 million “luminous veil” of stainless-steel rods above the railing. At all these places, after the barriers were put in place, the number of jumpers has declined to a handful or zero.
A study of the “suicide barrier” at Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington, D.C. shows that the installation of the barrier did not cause a corresponding increase in suicides at other nearby bridges. The study suggests that when faced with a barrier, suicidal people are forced to pause, giving them a chance to rethink their situation and seek help. That is also the theory behind the “last-chance” phones that dot the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
A 2003 article in the New York Times quotes Alan L. Bremer, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, as saying, “If you thwart jumpers from an immediately accessible site, you will save some lives.”
The fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge became a mecca for jumpers since its construction in 1937. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, more than 1,218 people have jumped from the span, dubbed by locals as the “Lethal Beauty.”
Studies have shown that installing a suicide barrier would prevent deaths. Officials looked at installing a nine-foot wire fence, nylon safety net and high-voltage laser beams. But a $2 million feasibility study has not been fully funded, and the cost of the suicide barrier has been estimated at between $15 and $25 million.
A popular blog on the Web devoted to suicide sites claims that Akron’s All-America suicide bridge underwent renovations in 1993, costing $27 million, which included the installation of suicide-prevention rails.
But Mark Williamson, Communications Director for Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic, scoffed at the report. He said a “suicide barrier” would probably cost $2 to $3 million to install. “There are no funds for that,” he explains in what may be the simple answer for the question raised by Dan Pérez’s mother: At what price does local government draw the line at protecting lives and not just property?
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