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 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.