To deter suicides by jumping or falling from parking structures in Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority is further committed to building more permanent fencing on the roofs of parking structures in the city. Installation of the fencing began last fall when city officials noticed a pattern of suicide attempts or completed suicides by individuals jumping or falling from garages over the past three years.
Between November 2015 and December 2016, three people died and two were injured after falling or jumping from city parking lots. Further incidents occurred in September and October 2017, when two men fell from parking structures at South Fourth Avenue and East William Street. These deaths were considered suicides.
The project will be funded by fees charged to those who park their vehicles at city structures. The DDA board determined at a meeting last week that bids will be due by Jan. 16 and work should be underway by the end of the month.
City Council Member Kirk Westphal, D-Ward 2, described the importance of having the fence installed in the first place to help deter individuals from ending their lives.
“As council members, our first priority is public safety,” Westphal said. “As an urgent need for public safety, the advice we’ve gotten from mental health experts is that, while not foolproof, this temporary fence was a prudent strategy to help interrupt some people’s resolve. to commit suicide.”
According to Susan Pollay, executive director of the DDA, temporary fencing was installed on the garages when the bid for the project cost $1 million more than expected. Contractor availability was also low during this time, resulting in more expensive estimates. As a result, the DDA Board approved a slice of chain link fencing on the structures rather than more permanent materials.
Pollay said city administrators hope to add fencing at other levels in parking structures, not just rooftops. She also said it was important to install the fences to better meet the needs of Ann Arbor residents.
“Perhaps it’s more important to focus on the needs of people in our community that aren’t being met,” Pollay said.
Some garages, like the Maynard structure, are already fenced. Pollay told the Daily in October that the structures that will be prioritized include the roof of the Fourth and Williams Streets structure – at the top of the list due to its sheer size – followed by the Ann and Ashley Streets structure, the structure of Fourth and Washington, the Maynard Structure, the Liberty Square Structure, and the Forest Avenue Structure. The DDA will also pursue other tactics such as signage and structure management.
After the deaths last September and October, city officials decided to take action on the temporary fencing. Matt Lige, a lieutenant with the Ann Arbor Police Department, was one such official who expressed initial frustration.
“I am frustrated with the volume of deaths in parking lots in the city of Ann Arbor,” he said at the scene of the October fatal fall. “I think it’s safe to say we’re all frustrated.”
The city also installed signage with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s phone number and other information about psychiatric services to deter individuals from committing suicide.
Structures owned by the University of Michigan do not have the same obstacles as structures owned by the city.
In an email interview, Stephen Dolen, the university’s executive director of logistics, transportation and parking, said options are currently being evaluated to implement similar deterrent methods to structures. parking lot belonging to the university.
“The Logistics, Transportation and Parking unit has worked with parking consultants to assess options, review the effectiveness, operational considerations and costs of adding certain types of additional preventative measures and this continues to be a current topic of discussion,” Dolen wrote.