Jan. 22 (UPI) — Jamaican authorities issued a state of emergency in a popular tourist area last week after violent crime there soared over the past year.
“Crime and violence in particular murders have been escalating in the parish of St. James,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in a statement Thursday. “I have been advised by the security forces in writing that the level of criminal activity experience continued and threatened, is of such a nature and so extensive in scale as to endanger public safety.”
St. James includes Montego Bay, the popular international tourist destination. The Jamaican government said it recorded 335 murders in the parish in 2017, which was more than twice the murder count of all other parishes in the country.
The Jamaican military said it will occupy areas of St. James until at least Feb. 15 and its personnel will be given additional powers of search and detention, the Jamaican Observer reported.
“During this period, we will be temporarily abridging individual rights in order to facilitate the security forces in their search for gang members, scammers, wanted men, persons of interest, and other criminals, as well as the guns and ammunition,” said Jamaican Defense Forces Colonel Daniel Pryce.
In response to the state of emergency declaration, British and Canadian authorities warned their citizens to exercise caution while traveling in Jamaica.
The United States also updated its travel advisory to Jamaica and urged citizens to avoid areas of Montego Bay due to crime.