In the wake of a second apparent suicide at the New Hope-Lambertville Toll Bridge since Thanksgiving, the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission announced over the weekend it will step up patrols of its bridges and initiate other steps to combat suicide attempts during the winter holiday period.
"As best as we can tell, the Commission has never experienced two apparent-suicide fatalities within such a short period of time and we certainly will attempt to do all we can to prevent any further such incidents," said Acting Executive Director Arnold J. Conoline, Jr. "While we train and outfit our personnel to deal with these kinds of situations, we're going to redouble our efforts during the holiday period when stress and depression can cause individuals to take drastic and unfortunate actions."
Conoline said the Commission will initiate the following steps within the next 24 hours and continue them through at least New Year's Day:
- Request Pennsylvania and New Jersey State Police to step up their patrols on all Commission bridges, with particular attention to the New Hope-Lambertville Toll Bridge (the Commission contracts with the two state police entities to provide security and incident response at the bridge agency's river crossings and other transportation facilities);
- Request local police departments in communities that host Commission bridges to step up patrols of Commission bridges considered susceptible to jumpers;
- Increase Commission patrols at all crossings, changing employee schedules and assignments and utilizing additional part-time personnel as necessary to carry out this objective;
- Activate variable-message signs on the two approaches to the New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202) Toll Bridge to provide crisis intervention service hotline phone numbers in Bucks County (PA side) and Hunterdon County (NJ side);
- Instruct security-camera monitoring personnel to increase their examination of cameras at bridges considered most susceptible to a jumping incident;
- Direct bridge officers to be on heightened alert for suspicious pedestrian behavior that could escalate into a potential suicide attempt at one of the agency's toll-supported bridges - generally low-elevation through-truss crossings with pedestrian walkways;
- Post crisis intervention hotline information on the Commission website's homepage.
Conoline said the agency also has begun discussing long-term actions that might be taken - such as permanent signs or barriers - but he said more time and evaluation is needed before decisions can be made about whether or where such steps might be feasible and appropriate.