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

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Your Kidding Right?

    That is a ridiculous amont of money to spend on somthing that may or may not work.  There have been jumper suicides at non-Evanston buildings in the past.  A determined person bent on ending it all will find a place to do the deed no matter what obstacles are in the way. If the top level is fenced off then the next lower level will do quite nicely.  Oh and how about removing the "sculpture" on top of the Maple Street garage where a person is balancing precariously on a beam.  Talk about power of suggestion.

    1. Suicide Prevention

      What amount of money is too much to prevent even one death!  Something has to be done to prevent people from jumping off any building or garage.  The harder we make it for someone to attempt suicide, there may be the chance of stopping it!  It is time to do something rather than nothing!  How much is one life worth?

    2. They will find a place

      If someone is intent on committing suicide, they will find a place.  Just as with cameras on poles, where criminals learn where they are and committ their crimes out of view, those intent on suicide will find another place or means.  Instead of jumping they may ram their car into buildings or other structures or even cause a mass killing by plowing into traffic.

      They need help, but "closing the barndoor" will not help.

      Yes and get rid of that sculpure on the garage.  It is a suggestion to jumpers, a taut for kids to imitate [look how far they will go to leave graffiti] or climb out on and a danger if it falls.

    3. Taxpayer cost

      How much does it cost us taxpayers to clean up after a suicide (emergency crew, coroner, clean/fix the landing spot, etc.)? If it's more than putting up nets then I think we have our answer.

    4. Stop the trains and fence off the lake?

      While contemplating this measure, they may want to consider stopping all train service through the town as people have jumped in front of those. They may also want to fence off the lake too as people have killed themselves there too. 

  2. Insteads of nets, maybe working elevators, or…

    For more than three weeks now, 2 out of the 3 elevators of the SW entrance of this public buidling are out of service. Perhaps, fixing them would be a better way to allocate public funds. Also, if you live in South Evanston, you have probaly noticed thatblack and white oil barrels are used by the City of Evanston as curbside trash containers. Not very pleasant for the eye. Third world feel. 

    1. Elevators

      The City Council tonight is scheduled to vote on funding for the emergency elevator repairs. Evanston Now reported last week on the sprinkler mishap that led to the elevators being out of service.

      — Bill

    2. Suicide nets

      Yes, Evanston does need more suicide nets but not in the literal form. Mental health is a serious issue that is not addressed enough. Distressed individuals don't know how or where to get help. When they find it, many cannot afford it.

      its time we stop looking the other way and find avenues where people who need help can get it and keep their dignity.

  3. Suicide nets

    This is ridiculous! If a person is determined to commit suicide, they will do it. Put the money in parks or, I'm sure this will resonate with some, declare Evanston a suicide free zone!

    1. Better idea

      I have a better idea. After seeing the increase in the property tax bill. Put the money back into the taxpayer's pocket. This city has almost picked it clean and we still have massive debt.

      Put some signs in the garages that say "if you are thinking suicide call 311 before acting".

  4. Waste of Taxpayer Money

    Typical Law and Order Liberals at work.  

    Why should we spend millions of dollars to stop something that might not happen again for 5 years?

  5. Nearly comical

    This proposal would be funny if it weren't so misguided.  It attempts to address a single leaf on the tree of mental illness, instead of the roots.  It essentially classifies suicide is a public nuisance, instead of the worst possible choice, and a preventable one, of a person in crisis.           

    My proposal is to take the $1-5 million and grant it to Erika's Lighthouse, Peer Services, Y.O.U., Metropolitan Family Services – those who do the invisible and tough work of suicide prevention.          

  6. If someone wants to die and be selfish – let them

    I am sorry – suicide is terrible. Completly awlful for those who have to endure the aftermath that the person left them with. I consider it the most selfish act one can ever do.

    If one chooses to commit suicide – they will find a way. Perhaps the city will legislate nets along the lakeshore so nobody could drown. Or ban rope from hardware stores, razor blades or even sleeping pills from the local pharmacies.

    These so called "nets" might be the worst waste of money and fiscal irresponsibity our city has proposed to date. Let those selfish people die and not require us tax payers to pay for their mess.


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