New Mexico May 23 2020
The New Mexico Department of Transportation has hired private armed security guards to patrol the Río Grande Gorge bridge in an effort to prevent vandalism and increase public safety.
“Recent acts of vandalism and destruction of property at the bridge and the rest areas including the theft of toilet paper and soap dispensers prompted the department to take extra security measures,” said a press release from the state Wednesday night (May 20).
“It’s about safety. We want travelers and truckers to feel secure while stopping to rest or use the facilities,” said Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval in a statement. “The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge has also been hit by vandals recently and while the armed guards are not trained in suicide prevention techniques, the added security may serve as an indirect benefit to suicide prevention.”
More than 100 people have died in the last couple of decades after jumping from the bridge. The most recent apparent suicide at the bridge was Morgan Sanders, 37, a Taos landscaper, in April.
“I am very happy the many years of lobbying the Governor, the legislature and NMDOT for safety measures and some form of suicide deterrent has brought us to this point,” said Taos County Commissioner Candyce O’Donnell, who is among those who’ve advocated for years for better security at the bridge. “The presence of security guards will be a deterrent to those who are contemplating suicide at the Río Grande del Norte National Monument Bridge. I thank the governor, the legislature and NMDOT for this milestone to protect the public and first responders.”
With her to meet the first guard at the bridge was Curly O’Connor, who started the Gorge Bridge Safety Network after her son, Cooper Beacon, died at bridge in 2014.
The guards will patrol the bridge full time and are paid $15 an hour, according to an online job announcement. The company contracted to provide security at the bridge is Securitas Security Services USA, a global organization with an office in Albuquerque.
Security guards also will be posted at La Bajada-Centennial Rest Area south of Santa Fe.
Roving patrols also are providing security at rest areas along Interstate 25 and at the Mesa and Waldrop facilities.