Rising crime in Jamaica has caused the country’s prime minister to declare a state of emergency in several areas, including the popular tourist destination of Montego Bay.
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Tuesday declared a state of public emergency in parts of the capital city Kingston and in some central and western parishes in an attempt to control rising crime linked to gang violence.
States of emergency give authorities increased powers, including the ability to search buildings and carry out arrests without warrants. Tuesday’s measures apply to areas that include popular tourist destinations such as Montego Bay.
Montego Bay is one of the more popular resort areas for American tourists in the Caribbean and is home to several prominent hotels including Sandals’ all-inclusive flagship location, Sandals Montego Bay.
Last month, the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning suggesting that Americans reconsider traveling to Jamaica due to rising crime, explaining that “the homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.”
“Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common,” the warning said. “Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents.”
Jamaican officials said that 1,360 murders have taken place on the island between Jan. 1 and Nov. 13 of this year, which represents an increase of 6.8% from the same period in 2021.
Gang violence is said to be the reason for 71% of those murders.
“We have seen an increase in criminal activities in these areas and a threat to property and in some instances public disorder,” Holness said during a televised address.
“What we are seeing with gang activities in these areas is cause for grave concern,” he added.
Holness predicted an increase in murders over the next several weeks with the onset of the holiday season, when violent crime typically spikes.
Reuters contributed to this report