- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—PALO ALTO — Even if it saves just one life, an effort to prevent suicides on the Caltrain tracks is worth the money, a recent Palo Alto High School graduate said at a community meeting Monday night.

“For every death you prevent, you’re preventing a parent from losing a child, a student who has to sit next to an empty desk of a friend who died, and saving thousands from grief,” Jessica Feinberg, 19, said after the forum.

Four teens died by suicide on the tracks between October and March.

The meeting at the Mitchell Park Community Center was held to inform residents about the effort, which includes installing motion-detection cameras at the Meadow Drive crossing, clearing vegetation and installing new fencing along a 4-mile stretch of the railroad.

Students contemplating suicide might think twice if they have to climb a taller fence or risk being caught on camera, said Feinberg, who is attending Smith College in Massachusetts and interning with Project Safety Net, a local group that works to prevent teen suicide.

A moment of hesitation could result in a student calling a friend or counselor for help, Feinberg added.

“It’s one life,” she said. “It could have been my life.”

Feinberg’s remarks followed those of a man who questioned the expenditure of funds on an effort that might not work. He said the son of one of his friends died by suicide on the tracks and did not believe any of the measures would prevent suicides by determined students.

City Manager James Keene said research shows that “means restriction” is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, but he acknowledged that success can be difficult to gauge.

“If it makes one difference, I would say one is enough,” Keene said.

In the next two months, the city will test a system of cameras and motion sensors provided by CSC, a Santa Clara-based company. The system includes long-range thermal cameras and color night vision cameras. Other cameras will be installed in and around the crossing.

The city has the option to buy the equipment after 60 days for $172,000, according to Ken Dueker, director of the city’s Office of Emergency Services.

In addition, the city will spend $170,000 to clear vegetation and $100,000 to add 18 inches of curved fencing to the top of existing fencing in the next three months. Caltrain will also allocate about $500,000 to upgrade or install new fencing that is 8 feet tall along the 4-mile stretch.

Email Jacqueline Lee at [email protected] or call her at 650-391-1334; follow her attwitter.com/jleenews.

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(c)2015 the Palo Alto Daily News (Menlo Park, Calif.)

Visit the Palo Alto Daily News (Menlo Park, Calif.) at www.paloaltodailynews.com

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