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Do city garages need suicide nets?

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Evanston aldermen tonight will discuss whether the city should use nets or other barriers to try to prevent suicides after two people jumped late last year from city parking garages.

On Nov. 12 a man died when he jumped from the top of the 12-story Sherman Plaza garage. And on Nov. 22 a woman sustained fatal injuries when she jumped from the fourth level of the Maple Avenue garage.

A report from city staff cites efforts in Ithaca, N.Y. to erect barriers to prevent people from jumping from bridges over ravines in the city and on the Cornell University campus.

A study prepared for that project suggested either using fencing along the railings of the bridges or netting below the bridge structures to catch someone who attempted to jump.

Design illustrations from an Ithaca report on the bridge project.

The memo aldermen will discuss tonight says that the Ithaca area had experienced a history of roughly 20 suicides from seven bridges in the area over a span of two decades.

In addition to the two suicides from Evanston city garages last year, another person jumped from the Sherman Plaza garage to his death in July 2012, but no long-term figures on garage suicides here were immediately available.

According to news reports, Ithaca first installed fencing along several bridges in 2010, but after complaints about how that obstructed views, opted to install nets under the bridges instead, despite community opposition that said the city should spend the money on mental health services instead.

With the netting in place, the city started removing the fences last year.

In the staff memo, Evanston officials estimate suicide nets at the three downtown garages here could cost a total of nearly $5 million, while fencing off just the roof-top levels would cost about $1 million.

The staff memo seeks guidance from aldermen on whether the city should take any specific steps to address the issue.

Related document

Staff memo, at p. 386 of City Council Packet

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