Several media outlets are reporting that Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared a state of emergency in St. James Parish as a result of an increase of murders and shootings in the area, which includes popular tourism spot Montego Bay.
According to the Jamaica Observer, the affected areas include King Street, Cottage Road, Rose Heights, Cambridge, Norwood and the Trelawny–St James border. Last year, some 335 murders were recorded in St. James and at least four people have been murdered in that western parish since the start of the year, according to the Jamaica Observer report.
According to the Jamaica Observer report, several sections of the crime-infested parish of St James are now occupied with members of the Jamaica Defence Force, as they search properties and people.
Meanwhile, the Jamaica Gleaner is reporting that a senior member of the police force is now facing possible disciplinary action after allegedly pre-empting Holness’ announcement of the state of public emergency in St. James on Thursday.
On January 10, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 2 travel advisory earlier this week urging travelers to “exercise increased caution in Jamaica due to crime.” The advisory comes as part of an update to how the State Department shares travel safety information for all destinations.
According to the advisory, "Violence and shootings occur regularly in some areas of Montego Bay. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling to the following areas: Flankers, Canterbury, Norwood, Rose Heights, Clavers Street and Hart Street."
The U.S. State Department's New Four-Tier System
- Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.
- Level 2 - Exercise Increased Caution: Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
- Level 3 - Reconsider Travel: Avoid travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
- Level 4 - Do Not Travel: This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. During an emergency, the U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the Travel Advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.