Foreigners are being asked by their respected governments to exercise extreme caution and stay within the perimeter of their resorts in Montego Bay, Jamaica, after a wave of out of control violence has overpowered local authorities.
On Thursday, the country’s prime minister, Andrew Holness, declared the state of emergency in the St. James parish to “restore public safety,” and also thwart a mass exodus of international investment and tourism.
In response, the government deployed the Jamaica Defence Forces onto the city streets in what is described as a “major military operation.”
Maj. Gen. Antony Anderson, Jamaica’s national security advisor, told CTV News Channel on Friday that authorities imposed a military lockdown of the area, following 335 homicides in 2017, and as reported by CTV that is “twice the tally of any other parish” in the country.
Maj. Gen. Anderson noted that the number of shootings and homicides have been growing for some period of time, but last year, the surge in deaths could not be ignored rolling into 2018. He said much of the problem resides on the outskirts of Montego Bay and that “Jamaica is still open for business.”
— State of Jamaica (@JamaicaState) January 20, 2018
The recent crime surge in Jamaica has been driven by conflicts between criminal gangs over the control of the lottery trade, drug wars, and even turf wars.
Maj. Gen. Anderson describes the state of emergency which gives military troops “more freedom of action.”
“For instance, they can do searches without a warrant, so if they get information that something is occurring somewhere, they can respond rapidly to it. They can respond to a series of intelligence-driven operations to target and capture the people who are doing these things and generally disrupt the gangs in their activities,” he added.
The entire parish of St James is now locked down by members of the military in what is being reported as a limited state of emergency that has been imposed by the Government. Soldiers are visible stopping and searching motor vehicles at various points in the parish where 335 murders were recorded last year.
There has been no let up to the bloodletting in the parish this year, with criminal attacks there moving to the point where in a daring attack by gunmen armed with AK-47 assault rifles, a man was killed and others injured in an incident on the roadway near the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, the parish capital and the national tourism centre, earlier this week.
Government forces are conducting door to door operations in St. James.
— Jamaica Gleaner (@JamaicaGleaner) January 18, 2018
Military checkpoints are situated throughout St. James.
Members of the Jamaica Defence Force at work in the parish of St. James. State of emergency limited to the entire parish has been declared. pic.twitter.com/Jp2Vn8w6TD
— Abka Fitz-Henley (@AbkaFitzHenley) January 18, 2018
The U.S. State Department issued this warning: “Expect to encounter increased police and military presence, checkpoints, searches of persons/vehicles within St. James Parish.”
#Jamaica: Effective January 18, the Government of Jamaica has declared a limited state of emergency for St. James Parish, to counter criminal activity. Expect to encounter increased police and military presence, checkpoints, searches of persons/vehicles within St. James Parish. pic.twitter.com/mt0pGLnZtZ
— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) January 18, 2018
“Military forces have been deployed to the area in an attempt to stabilize the situation,” reads a safety and security notice posted by Travel Canada.
FCO travel advice for British nationals living and traveling abroad in Jamaica:
#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. t.co/WFuJiHEW0d
— FCO travel advice (@FCOtravel) January 18, 2018