Officials take steps to prevent suicide attempts at NJ bridges
The problem is more serious than you might think. Every year in New Jersey dozens of people attempt to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge.
At the end of last year, the New Jersey Department of Transportation erected a fence along the rails of the Victory Bridge in Perth Amboy, where 22 individuals have jumped to their deaths since 2004.
"The fence, I believe is approximately 5 feet tall. It's just standard fencing and the purpose is to make it more difficult for anybody to climb over to the ledge to jump off the bridge," said Kevin Israel, a spokesman for the NJ Department of Transportation.
A fence has also been erected on the nearby Edison Bridge, and both bridges cost the DOT $1.4 million.
"It's tragic when somebody chooses to take their own life, and we think the best prevention in these cases is to make sure these folks get the necessary medical attention to avoid the situation altogether," Israel said.
Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, who's been clamoring for a fence for years, is happy to finally have one.
"The instillation of the fence has actually prevented people from jumping," she said. "It's been very positive, we need to find preventive measures, not that you're going to stop it 100 percent, but we have definitely seen a difference."
The mayor said people probably don't realize the Victory Bridge is a state bridge, however Perth Amboy has carried the burden of dealing with everyone who has tried to commit suicide.
"We've had 80 suicide attempts since 2004 and 22 people lost their lives," she said. "Our first responders have had to do rescues. It's not only dangerous but also very expensive for our town."
She said dealing with this issue has put an emotional strain on first responders.
"The state designed and built the bridge. Moving forward they need to make sure it's more difficult for people to climb over railings so they cannot jump off," Diaz said.
At the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is planning to erect its own suicide prevention fence, but officials have indicated the project won't be completed until the year 2022, because they will build the fence in sections, as regular maintenance is performed.
The George Washington Bridge has become a magnet for individuals trying to commit suicide. In 2012, 18 people leaped to their deaths and 49 others were talked out of jumping. In 2013 there were 15 suicides at the GWB and 74 interventions.
Last year, 18 individuals jumped into the Hudson River and died, and 74 people were talked down. So far this year there have been three suicide deaths, and 13 people have been saved.
Prior to 2012, an average of six people a year committed suicide at the George Washington Bridge. Officials are not sure why the numbers have jumped so dramatically lately.