Cameras could have provided answers in young man’s death — SLO should put them in parking garages

It’s a heartbreaking situation: A young man is dead after falling from the top of a downtown San Luis Obispo parking structure, and his parents are struggling to find out exactly what happened.

San Luis Obispo police initially believed it was suicide, but as Tribune writer Gabby Ferreira reported, Thomas “Tommy” Jodry’s parents don’t accept that. Among other reasons, they point out that Jodry’s therapist told them their son he was not suicidal.

If ever there was a case to be made for installing surveillance cameras inside downtown SLO’s large parking structures, this is it.

The city already has cameras in several other locations, including the downtown, Mission Plaza and city parks.

Why not parking garages? They can be intimidating spaces, especially when people are walking to their cars alone at night.

And while video surveillance may not have prevented what happened to Jodry at the Marsh Street garage, it could have given police — and Jodry’s family and friends — some definitive answers.

This is not the first time this has happened in San Luis Obispo.

In 2013, a 26-year-old fell to his death from the Palm and Morro Street structure. It was ultimately ruled an accident, as there was no note or other indication that he had been contemplating suicide. And again, there was no evidence of what happened prior to the fall.

The city of San Luis Obispo currently has no cameras in any of its garages, though they are being installed at the new, pay-on-foot machines inside the structures.

Before Jodry’s death, the city already had been considering installing more cameras in parking structures in response to “homeless activity and vandalism,” according to Tim Bochum, a deputy director of public works.

Now there’s even more reason to do so; we urge the city to follow through with installing cameras — especially on the top floors of the structures — as soon as possible.

There also are steps the city could take to make parking structures safer.

While only a small percentage of suicide victims jump to their deaths, parking garages are a frequently chosen location, as they are generally open 24 hours a day and there’s usually not much security.

With the suicide rate increasing in California — according to the CDC, it rose by almost 15 percent between 1999 and 2016 — all agencies with multi-story parking garages should consider whether they are doing enough to prevent people from intentionally jumping off.

Some cities have installed fencing and other barriers to make it more difficult to jump; cities and nonprofits also have installed signs in garages listing suicide hotline numbers.

Now is an excellent time for San Luis Obispo to consider safety measures; plans are in the works for two additional parking structures and for renovations at the garage across from Palm Theater.

For more information on what can be done to make parking garages safer, check out this publication by the International Parking Institute: “Suicide in Parking Facilities: Prevention, Response and Recovery.”

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune