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Barriers: More Bad Information from Cornell

My "Barrier Update" on Sunday did not mention one of the most striking claims made by Cornell in the past week. Tim Marchell, Gannett’s director of Mental Health Initiatives, told The Cornell Daily Sun that the barriers have already helped to save two lives. The Sun's story linked to two articles from the Ithaca Journal's archives that supposedly documented these cases (both behind a pay wall). Funny thing is, one of these cases occured before the barriers even went up! And in the other case, the barrier didn't seem to slow the guy down one bit. In fact, the barrier may have made it harder for police to rescue him.

When I contacted the Sun about this, they explained the links were provided by Marchell at the last minute via email and admitted they had not looked into them deeply. They encouraged me to write an op ed to correct the record. I was worried that the Sun would not accept my op ed if I had already reported about this for MetaEzra, and I felt it was more important that this information reach the Sun's readers, some of whom may have changed their mind about the barriers based on this bad information, than to report on it fast. Well my essay finally appeared in the Sun today and you can read it here.

I think that it is interesting that in both cases Marchell cites, the troubled people who were attempting suicide were saved by quick thinking police officers. That makes me wonder: What if the money they are spending on permanent bridge barriers was used to hire plainclothes police officers that patrol the bridges on foot or on a bicycle? Might that strategy actually save more lives than a barrier?

Dan Jost | Posted on March 09, 2011 (#)

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