CCDC hopes to curb suicide attempts at public parking garage

The eight-story 9th & Front Garage was the site of more than 90% of all suicides attempted on a downtown garage from 2014-2016 according to a report from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare's Suicide Prevention Program. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

The eight-story 9th & Front Garage was the site of more than 90% of all suicides attempted on a downtown garage from 2014-2016 according to a report from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare's Suicide Prevention Program. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Don Day
BoiseDev.com

Late last year, the Idaho Statesman detailed a vivid story about a Boise teen climbing to the top of a public parking garage with the intent of jumping to his death.

Before he took any action, he saw another, unrelated woman jump from another floor of the garage.

The story ends with the woman surviving and the teen getting help before jumping - but the reporting from Zach Kyle prompted action with the owner of the parking structure.

The Capital City Development Corporation owns most of the public garages in Downtown Boise - including the one at 9th and Front featured in Kyle's story.

After reading it, officials decided they had to act.

“It’s not part of urban renewal per se, but it is part of our responsibility as owners of parking garages," CCDC Executive Director John Brunelle said during a public meeting Monday. “We’re not experts in this area so we were looking for help.”

That help came from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare's Suicide Prevention Program - a program which just got started in 2016 with funding from the Idaho Legislature.

The SPP also saw the Statesman article and took its own action - initiating an informal investigation.

The report showed that Boise Police officials took eleven calls related to suicide attempts at parking garages from 2014 through 2016. All but one of those calls involved the 9th & Front garage in the Statesman's story - CCDC's tallest.

At SPP's suggestion, the agency is taking some steps immediately, including adding signage to provide resources to struggling individuals at the moment they may need it the most.  The signs are being fabricated now and will be placed at key locations.  The placards show the numbers for the Idaho Suicide Prevention hotline.

In addition, staffers with CCDC's parking vendor and security provider will receive training on how to "talk to and listen to someone who is suicidal."  The two-hour training will be conducted by SPP this month, and some key staffers will also be given more advanced training.

Another step being contemplated would require physical changes to the garage, formerly known as City Center.  SPP did a full inspection of the garage, measuring barriers, looking at stairwells and more.

Portions of the garage only have a series of cables separating the parking direct from the ledge. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

Portions of the garage only have a series of cables separating the parking direct from the ledge. Don Day/BoiseDev.com

SPP says the garage's large exterior staircases with low railings, ledges that are wider than at other garages and cable barriers all increase the risk of suicidal actions at the structure.

"Physical barriers are being examined for 9th & Front on the ledges, stairwells and cables which run horizontally along the walls of the garage," CCDC said in its report.

Redesign ideas are due this month, and CCDC says it "will implement over time any reasonable measure suggested."

Another idea, not suggested directly by SPP, would be to limit loitering on the upper levels of garages.

CCDC says it is not ready to do that just yet.

"We do not feel we are ready to implement this measure yet, as the garage rooftops are popular viewing points for downtown parades, balloon launches and fireworks," according to the report.