November 13, 2013

Smooth Transition From Fences to Nets, Cornell Officials Say

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By ANNIE BUI

The fences surrounding bridges on and around campus, a sobering reminder of a string of suicides in Spring 2010, have been down for nearly six months. The nets that took their place seem to have been effective in the meantime, with no reports of anyone entering them since they were installed, according to University officials.

The fences, a temporary measure erected on seven bridges on and around campus in early 2010 as a mental health and suicide prevention measure, were replaced by low-visibility steel mesh systems or nets beginning in August 2012 and ultimately taken down this past May. The nets were thought to provide better natural views while still maintaining public safety.

David Honan, Cornell’s Deputy Chief of Police, said the mesh systems will remain in place for the forseeable future.

“We are very pleased to report that there’s been very few instances of people tampering with the steel mesh, or tampering with any of the monitoring systems in place. We [also] haven’t had any incidences of people going into the steel mesh,” Honan said.

Although the Cornell Police have not seen anybody dropping or jumping into the steel mesh so far, there have been a couple of instances in which people have thrown objects into the mesh, according to Honan.

“[There was] one instance where we referred somebody under the City of Ithaca code for [throwing things]. It is a violation of City of Ithaca code to climb on, jump on, or throw or drop or cause an object to be dropped on the safety mesh that is attached to a city bridge,” Honan said.

According to Honan, the transition from temporary fences to steel mesh systems has decreased the burden on officers. Rather than routinely checking on the fences to make sure they remain intact, officers now respond to alarms that indicate when something may be in the mesh.

Honan added that the amount of work between previously checking the fences and responding to the mesh system alarms is equitable.

“It hasn’t really reduced our work much at this point, but it’s also recognizing that this system is still new and is improving,” Honan said. “We’re still continuing to fine tune the monitoring systems… When we receive notifications that something may have entered the mesh, we respond to all of the alarms that come in and check them out to make sure there is nothing or nobody in the mesh.”

Overall, Honan said he believes that another outcome from the change to the steel mesh systems has been one of “positive reactions from the community.”

“I certainly appreciate that we have restored the natural beauty of the views,” Honan said.

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