THE DELAWARE RIVER Joint Toll Bridge Commission says it will immediately step up bridge patrols and take other steps to help prevent suicide attempts during the winter holiday period.

The move comes after two people apparently jumped to their deaths from the New Hope-Lambertville (Route 202) Toll Bridge in recent weeks.

Arnold Conoline Jr., the commission's acting executive director, said the increased security will remain in effect through at least New Year's Day. The agency also is considering some long-term measures that might help prevent suicides, Conoline said, but more time and evaluation are needed before such decisions can be made.

The commission has asked state police from Pennsylvania and New Jersey and local law enforcement agencies to immediately step up their patrols on its bridges. The commission contracts with the two state agencies to provide security and respond to incidents at its crossing and transportation facilities.

Commission workers will be on heightened alert for pedestrians who appear to be acting strangely. And officials will use variable-message signs on the two approaches to the New Hope-Lambertville Toll Bridge to provide phone numbers for crisis intervention service hotlines in Bucks County and Hunterdon County in New Jersey.

The New Hope-based bridge commission operates seven toll bridges and 13 free bridges, two of which are pedestrian-only spans.