Although a recent upsurge in criminal
activity in and around Montego Bay, Jamaica, prompted security
forces to increase the police presence in those areas, tourism
officials stressed that the crime outbreaks were limited to the
outskirts of Montego Bay, well removed from the beaches and
resorts, and have not affected the vital tourism trade.
"As a society, we
are concerned with any increase in crime-related activities, but we
believe the police have responded adequately to this current
situation and can and will bring it under control," said Basil
Smith, director of tourism.
the latest crime wave to increased police pressure on crime
activity elsewhere in Jamaica, "which caused crime to then shift
toward the Montego Bay area."
In a recent
televised speech, national security minister Peter Phillips said
that most of the additional security forces were sent to St. James
Parish. (Jamaica has 14 parishes; Montego Bay is located in St.
"They were sent
there with the aim of ensuring the immediate control of crime and
the suppression of criminal activity in targeted communities,"
"We are going to
let the criminals know and feel that the law enforcement capacity
of the state is capable of responding to criminal activity," he
government will stay with its current crime-fighting strategies, it
also will intensify its overall efforts, including improved
collaboration with the public to share information, according to
The crime is
primarily related to gang warfare and drug-related activities,
according to Phillips, who ordered police curfews for three
communities in St. James.
presence "has been noticeably stepped up" since the new measures
went into effect, according to Smith.
"The police are
very noticeable on the streets, and their numbers will be further
increased if necessary," he said.
measures include a $20 million investment to upgrade the police
radio phone system and the emergency hotline (similar to the 911
system in the U.S.)
Crime in Jamaica
"has rarely been a problem affecting our visitors per se. The rate
is less than 1/10th of 1% of our total tourists reporting or
becoming victims of crime here," Smith said.
visitor numbers are sizable. In fact, 2006 was a record year for
the destination, which topped the 3 million mark in arrivals for
the first time and generated approximately $1.9 billion in revenue,
according to figures released by the Jamaica Tourist
U.S. accounted for more than 1 million of the total, making it the
largest single market for Jamaica.
tourism officials to the crime statistics was predictable. John
Lynch, executive vice president of sales worldwide for Unique
Vacations International, said that "everyone should be concerned
with a crime wave in Jamaica. It affects us all, no matter where on
the island it is happening."
executive vice president of sales and marketing for Air Jamaica,
"Speaking as a
Jamaican, I can tell you that nobody wants this," he said. "Our
government has outlined enhanced measures to get on top of these
problems. This is a priority issue involving problems associated
with inner-city gang wars and drug activities."
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].