Military crackdown on voilent crime takes place in Jamaica

More than 330 murders recorded in St James Parish last year

Tourists are drawn to the luxury resorts of Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Tourists are drawn to the luxury resorts of Montego Bay, Jamaica.

 

The military in Jamaica is carrying out a crackdown on violent crime, prompting concern for the safety of tourists.

The UK Foreign Office (FCO) warned holidaymakers that “intensive law enforcement activities” were expected in St James Parish after a state of emergency was declared there on Thursday.

Around 200,000 Britons visit Jamaica each year, with many drawn to Montego Bay by its luxury resorts and white sandy beaches, however the surrounding parish has seen a surge in gang-related killing and violence, according to authorities.

The FCO has said holidaymakers should limit their movements outside their resorts in the area, especially if travelling at night.

Travellers arriving and departing were also urged to only use transport booked through their hotels.

Jamaica Constabulary Force Police Commissioner George Quallo told the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) that 335 murders were recorded in St James Parish in 2017, almost double other parishes, with “numerous gangs” operating in the area.

Major general Rocky Meade, chief of defence staff of the Jamaican Defence Force, told the JIS: “All citizens of Jamaica, including the violence producers, can feel safe in the hands of the military, as long as you are not threatening the troops.

“We are ensuring that we enforce the rule of law, that we disrupt gang activities, and the particular focus is on those that are responsible for murders, lotto scamming, trafficking of arms and guns, and extortion.”

Jamaican prime minister Andrew Holness said that the crackdown was being undertaken with the support of local tourism industry.

“Several stakeholders, including those in the tourism industry, have written to me to say that they would support the necessary actions to bring the parish of St James under control and restore public safety,” he said.

Mr Holness said the government had been planning the operation “for some time”.

The Canadian government has also warned its citizens to stay in their resorts.