As suicide net faces delays, Golden Gate Bridge may see new patrol officers

The Golden Gate Bridge may hire five new bridge patrol officers to help curb attempted suicides on the landmark.

Those five new bridge patrol officer positions, if approved, would help bolster a safety presence on the bridge as a proposed suicide net faces significant delays.

The hiring is up for consideration by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors today, at the body’s regular meeting.

At its last meeting, the district approved a request by staff to prolong a vote on the two bids for the Golden Gate Bridge Physical Suicide Deterrent System Project until Jan. 9, to seek more information why the bids exceeded initial estimates.

The district initially estimated the safety net to cost $75.6 million, but the two bids for the project came in at more than twice that amount: $174 million and $142 million.

Denis Mulligan, general manager of the district, said the hiring of new officers is a way to seriously address the problem of people “hurting themselves” on the bridge in the meantime.

“When the bids came in high, recognizing that may take awhile to get together, staff said ‘What could we do in the interim?’” Mulligan told the San Francisco Examiner.

Those new officers would cost the district $127,393 each, annually, from wages and benefits combined, according to the district, with wages making up $67,163 of that cost. The combined annual cost is $636,965. The district employs 31 uniformed personnel, including 17 patrol officers, according to the district.

Increased patrols have already shown to be effective, Mulligan said. That’s reflected in district staff’s report to the board.

Over the past decade, staff wrote, the number of successful suicide interventions on the Golden Gate Bridge increased by a factor of three. Between 2000 and 2005, the average number of successful interventions per year was 52, they wrote, by 2015 there were 153. There have already been 138 successful interventions this year.

All of those interventions are attributed to an increased presence of Golden Gate Bridge Patrol Officers, staff wrote, and also to “some extent” California Highway Patrol personnel.

“While we build the net,” Mulligan said, “we want to stop even more.”

At the last full board meeting, Fair Oaks resident Manuel Gamboa reminded the board of the consequences of delaying the suicide deterrent. His 18-year-old son, Kyle, jumped from the bridge three years ago.

“If you guys have been paying attention, Sept. 20, 2013, is when Kyle Gamboa jumped off,” he told the board. “That was Monday, that marks three years. Seems like yesterday.”

He said of the net’s delay, “Three months is a long time, but it’s progress.”

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