On Tuesday, November 15, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that the country was forced into declaring a state of emergency due to the high incidents of crime. The state of emergency will not encompass the entire country, but will instead cover certain regions and areas of Jamaica. Areas covered include parts of Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, and some central and western areas.
Montego Bay, which is a tourist attraction, is part of the areas covered by the state of emergency.
“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 an announcement made on television. “What we are seeing with gang activities in these areas is cause for grave concern,” he added.
The rates of violence that led to the state of emergency are attributed to gangs. According to Jamaican officials, the murder rate in the country has increased by 6.8% when compared to the same time frame last year. 71% of the murders are attributed to gang violence.
The upcoming holiday seasons are a cause for concern because there is always a notable increase in murders during this time, a notion highlighted by Prime Minister Holness.
Countries or areas that are placed under a state of emergency do not function in the same manner they do in a normal state. Various rights and freedoms are limited in a state of emergency, searches and warrants can be executed without warrants.
The U.S. State Department released a travel advisory against traveling to Jamaica in October. The high rates of violence in the country necessitated the travel advisory. “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.”