Security at the Golden Gate Bridge has been tightened up a notch as crowds of people pile into San Francisco for the New Year. The added security comes just a week after a foiled terror plot at another city landmark, Pier 39.
Since this time last year, the bridge patrol staff has jumped by a third. It started in the name of suicide prevention, and while they’ve prevented more suicides this year than last, visitors have enjoyed an added benefit: greater overall security.
Given the sheer profile of the Golden Gate Bridge, it might make for an obvious target for anyone intending to do harm. Luckily, surveillance also has synced up with the times.
"It does feel to me like they’re taking it seriously," Sausalito resident Steven Moore said. "It is an icon. There are a lot of people here from all over the world, and people to protect. And I think it’s worth every investment for security."
The bridge is the perfect backdrop for family time and photo ops, but historically also a magnet for people looking to end their life.
Heightened concerns over counseling and intervention inspired a spike in staffing, which Golden Gate Bridge Patrol Capt. Lisa Locati said benefits everyone.
"Years ago, we would have one, maybe two people on the sidewalks depending on staffing levels," she said. "But when we increased the staffing levels, now we have three to four, sometimes five people assigned to the sidewalks or the parking lot to the pedestrian approach to the span."
The 36-person bridge patrol unit combs the bridge by way of foot, car and cart. Its size is larger than the Sausalito Police Department.
Other changes have been instituted recently. San Francisco Marathon participants won’t be able to run on the road after 2017, and stuntmen scaling the north tower of the bridge back in April brought more security measures and added scrutiny.
"You know, it makes me feel more comfortable and safe," said Stefanie Rios. "And that’s the number one thing the country is always seeking, for the citizens here of the United States, our safety."
Los Angeles resident Julie Prager added: "It gives us a little bit more peace of mind, knowing that there are people out there protecting us. But you can’t tell, so it doesn’t make you feel nervous, knowing that you need protection."
Locati, who actually retired Thursday, said there’s a "blend" of security present at the bridge, with the California Highway Patrol and U.S. Parks Police working with the bridge patrol.