February 19, 2018

Montego Bay under State of Emergency

Beach at Montego Bay. State of emergency has been declared for parish around this bay.

(Monica Poling – Travel Pulse, Jan. 22, 2018) Jamaica’s bustling tourism destination St. James Parish—home to popular Montego Bay—has been placed under a State of Emergency, due to an uptick in violent crime in the area.

“I have been advised by the security forces, in writing, that the level of criminal activity experienced, continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety,” said Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness in a statement.

According to The Root, some 335 murders were recorded in St. James Parish last year, outpacing any other region in Jamaica by nearly 100 percent.

Military forces have been dispatched to the area, which has been placed under martial law. Checkpoints are being set up through the region, where people may be asked to verify their identity and declare any weapons. They may also be subject to search. In particular, reports Newsweek (h/t TIME), security forces are targeting their focus “on those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns and extortion.”.

According to TIME, visitors are also being warned not to leave the confines of their resorts.

In a conversation with sister site TravelPulse Canada, Philip Rose, the Regional Director of Canada for the Jamaica Tourist Board, said he’s confident that the government measures will help restore order quickly. He also reminds readers that the crime rate against tourists is very low.

“[Jamaica] has always enjoyed a very low crime rate against visitors; probably one of the lowest percentages in the Caribbean,” he said.

He also noted that the alert has had very little impact on visitors.

“Visitors and locals are enjoying St. James and Montego Bay and all the area has to offer,” he said. “There’s really very little impact on law-abiding citizens, and these measures are welcomed by 99 percent of Jamaicans.”

In response to the State of Emergency, the United Kingdom and Canada updated their travel warnings to Jamaica, advising visitors to, “Exercise a high degree of caution.”

As of press time, the United States had not updated its travel advisory for Jamaica. While the United States considers the country, as a whole, a “Level 2—Exercise increased caution” nation, it has also, previously, issued its sternest “Level 4—Do not travel” warning for “parts of Kingston,” “parts of Montego Bay” and “Spanish Town” due to crime. The warning places those regions on par with war-torn Syria and Yemen.

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