Police are powerless in keeping traffic jams at bay during crisis negotiations

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was maddening for drivers when eastbound I-40 was shut down for more than 12 hours in Albuquerque, because of a man threatening to jump from an overpass.

It ended safely, but it has people wondering what can be done to keep this from happening again.

It all started at around noon on Sunday.

“His decision was to climb up on the fence on the overpass, going through some type of crisis,” said Officer Simon Drobik.

A man managed to climb over the fence and onto the ledge of the I-40 and Louisiana overpass, causing police to close off I-40 eastbound between Louisiana and Carlisle.

That led to a major traffic jam lasting past midnight.

“After it was all said and done, we were up on the bridge with him for about 14 hours,” said Officer Drobik.

It’s something police say happens about once a month in the city.

Just a few weeks ago, Albuquerque Police had to close down parts of Coors and I-40 when another man threatened to jump off the bridge there.

While police were able to talk down both men, they say there’s not much they can do to speed up the process.

“I understand people are upset about the freeway. It’s a human being up there, we’re trying to do the best we can,” said Officer Drobik.

Police say what doesn’t help are drivers who yell ‘jump’ from their cars. That just sets the crisis negotiators back.

Police also say the aggressive approach is not an option.

“We will never grab a suicidal subject. We’ll talk them down, and get them off that bridge,” said Officer Drobik.

Keeping people off the bridges is also not an option. While some bridges in Albuquerque have fences along them, they have gaps.

The Department of Transportation says they don’t have enough funding to thoroughly fence off every ledge.

People in Albuquerque are losing patience.

“When it’s one person holding up an entire city, it’s really troubling,” said Tony Lopez.

“That person is not thinking about everyone that is having to deal with the situation as well. You’re at that point kind of being a little bit selfish,” said Ashley Few.

Police say people threatening to jump are either depressed or dealing with a mental crisis. They would like drivers to remember that as they’re trying to be patient.

People who threaten to jump could be charged with some sort of misdemeanor, but police say that would be insensitive to charge someone in a crisis who’s not looking to hurt anyone else.

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