The last step
Police hope to change the Colorado Street Bridge’s reputation for suicides
By Carl Kozlowski 06/20/2013
The Colorado Street Bridge is an impressive feat of engineering and manmade ingenuity, standing high over the stunning expanse of the Arroyo Seco. But while it draws countless visitors each year to admire its own beauty and that of its surroundings, the bridge throughout its century-long existence has also been a beacon for desperate souls seeking to end their lives.
Officials say 150 people have leapt from the 149-foot-high structure since it was built in 1913, with most of those deaths occurring during the ravages of the Great Depression. However, it still averages 10 people each year who arrive with no plans but to end it all — despite a spike-tipped eight-foot-high barrier that was added 20 years ago, as well as improvements in how police conduct on-site emergency counseling.
“It’s always tragic when an individual has lost such hope and has such despair to feel they have no other option but to take their life,” says Pasadena police Lt. Tracey Ibarra. “They don’t know they have other options out there. As a city, we have to share that there are options. Once you take that action, there is no second chance.”
Ibarra noted that all of the 13 people who managed to jump to their deaths since 2006 were not from Pasadena, and that the city is planning a signage campaign on the bridge that will provide a 24/7 hotline number that people considering suicide can call and receive intervention.
Beyond that, Ibarra hopes that the efforts will help the Colorado Street Bridge move past its reputation as a “suicide bridge,” noting the risks and stress that police officers and paramedics go through when attempting to save lives.
“Holding people physically from jumping until they’re in custody means they’re risking their own lives to prevent them from jumping,” says Ibarra. “We have a counseling team, mediation, and have training in these situations by sending in our negotiation unit. We’ll send out one of the negotiation teams, and our outreach hope team.
“We have spent hours on the scene doing that and most of the times have been successful, but it’s very draining of money and hours and causes law enforcement officers emotional strain from seeing people take their own life,” she continues. “The more we learn from these experiences, the better we become at resolving them.”