By: Tyson Lautenschlager
The Canadian government has placed a travel advisory on Jamaica as the country responds to an uptick in violent crime near some of its most popular tourist regions.
The violence is centered in St. James Parish, a province of Jamaica that includes the popular resort city of Montego Bay. The province recorded 335 murders in 2017.
Jamaican authorities imposed a military lockdown on Thursday, according to Jamaica’s prime minister Andrew Holness.
“We’re all aware and agree that crime and violence, in particular murders, have been escalating in the Parish of St. James,” Holness said in a press conference. “I have been advised by the security forces that the level of criminal activity continued and threatened.
“In consideration of this, I wrote to the governor general recommending a declaration of a state of public emergency for the Parish of St. James.”
Consideration has been given to the citizens and businesses even as the parish of St. James is now under a State of Public Emergency.The State of Public Emergency for the Parish of St. James was announced today (January 18) during a press briefing held at Jamaica House.The Government is not arbitrary as it required a great deal of strategic planning.Several stakeholders have written to me to say that they are of the opinion and would support the necessary actions to bring the parish of St. James under control and restore public safety.I am assuring members of the public and business interests that the security forces will act in a way that will be a credit to Jamaica.The proclamation declaring the State of Public Emergency for the parish of St. James took effect at midnight.A State of Public Emergency is:• A tool to ensure enhanced security for all entering and leaving a particular geographic area.• Will ensure the enhanced security of all persons.• Law enforcement agents are trained in human rights and how to appropriately interact with all persons.• Persons may be stopped at various checkpoints.• Persons will be asked for information to verify your identity.• Persons will be asked to declare whether they have any offensive weapons or anything else to declare.• Persons will be asked to facilitate a search of their vehicle and themselves.• There is no need to modify movements as restrictions in the stated areas should not adversely impact law-abiding persons.• All business activities will function as normal.In the meantime, Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Rocky Meade also sought to reassure all persons.“We ask that you cooperate with the troops. The troops have been refreshed in their training of human rights and how to engage with citizens”, he explained.
Posted by Andrew Holness on Thursday, January 18, 2018
PM Holness Announces State of Public Emergency in St. James pic.twitter.com/Cv4oSubGJu
— Andrew Holness (@AndrewHolnessJM) January 18, 2018
The prime minister also said that the 335 murders in St. James Parish over the last year is more than double that of any other parish in the Caribbean country.
Canadians among 38 murders so far this year
Canada’s travel advisory on Jamaica recommends people “exercise a high degree of caution.”
Despite that, the Canadian government recognizes that they can’t control whether or not people travel within the country.
“The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad,” the advisory read.
Earlier in the month, two Canadians were killed in Jamaica in what Jamaican police are calling “a botched burglary gone wrong.”
Winnipeg residents Melbourne Flake, 81, and Etta Flake, 70, who also have a home in St. Thomas, on Jamaica’s eastern tip more than 200 km away from St. James Parish, were found dead on January 9.
According to a report by the Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica saw 1,616 murders last year, one of the highest homicide records ever for the country.