Tourists visiting Jamaica have been warned not to venture outside of resorts as parts of the island’s been plagued with a surge in murders.
The Root reported that officials have issued a state of emergency for St. James Parish–home to the ever-popular Montego Bay–after 335 murders were recorded there last year. Police commissioner George Quallo noted that the St. James’ murder tally nearly doubled recorded numbers in any other parish.
“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,” Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in a statement.
#Jamaica State of Emergency declared in St James Parish which includes Montego Bay, in response to recent violence including shooting incidents. Follow local advice including restrictions in selected areas, exercise particular care if travelling at night. https://t.co/WFuJiHEW0d
— FCO travel advice (@FCOtravel) January 18, 2018
According to Newsweek, military forces were deployed to St. James following the uptick in violence. Chief of defense, Major General Rocky Meade, claimed that the armed forces are zeroing in on gangs and “those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns, and extortion.”
As a result, people could be stopped and asked to verify their identity and declare any weapons.
“The declaration of a State of Public Emergency does not mean the suspension of the rule of law. The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all,” the Prime Minister said, according to CNN.
#Jamaica a state of emergency is in effect for St James Parish, which includes #MontegoBay as a result of a significant increase in violent crime. Military forces have been deployed to the area. https://t.co/jiGojvTy9V 1/2
— travel.gc.ca (@TravelGoC) January 19, 2018
Canadian and British governments have issued travel advisories for the area. While the United States hasn’t updated their advisory since Thursday’s state of emergency announcement, CNN noted that officials had previously advised against traveling to Montego Bay due to violent crime.
The Prime Minister has pushed for transparency, urging citizens to alert authorities if they are privy to illegal activity.
Holness said, “Now is the time, if you know where the guns are, please tell us; if you know where the criminals are, please tell us.”
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