A recent escalation in gang-related violent crime in sections of St. James Parish, where Montego Bay is located, prompted the Jamaican government to proclaim a state of public emergency in the parish on Jan. 18.

Last year, the parish recorded 335 murders, almost double the number of any other parish in the country.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said additional security forces now are on foot and mobile patrol in hotspots where crime has been on the increase.

The police and military forces have the power to search, curtail operating hours of businesses, set curfews and detain suspected persons without a warrant.

Although the tourist areas of Montego Bay have not been impacted by the rise in crime, both the U.K. and Canada have issued warnings, advising their citizens to stay at the resorts, exercise caution if traveling by night and to use taxis ordered by the resorts.

The latest U.S. advisory issued on Jan. 10, prior to the state of emergency, listed Jamaica at Level 2 (out of four levels) and advised travelers to be aware of risks to safety and security in St. James as well as in Kingston and the adjacent parish of St. Catherine.

At a press briefing over the weekend, Edmund Bartlett, minister of tourism, said that Jamaica remains safe for travelers.

“These enhanced security measures are not out of the ordinary in international tourism markets and therefore would be understood by visitors and welcomed by residents. All members of the tourism fraternity support the measures and welcome these actions to ensure the safety of Jamaica’s guests and citizens,” he said.

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