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Jamaica declares emergency over parts of island as gun crime soars

Montego Bay, where authorities are battling to stem a wave of killings

Montego Bay, Jamaica | AFP | Jamaica has declared a state of emergency in the island’s second city Montego Bay, where authorities are battling to stem a wave of killings.

Tourists have been urged to remain in their resorts following the declaration by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday, resulting in the deployment of thousands of members of the military and police in the city of 200,000, home to some of the biggest and most luxurious resorts on the island.

The move came days after the United States upgraded its travel advisory to its citizens. Canada and Great Britain issued warnings following the declaration of emergency.

“You should limit your movements outside of resorts in the area at this time, and exercise particular care if travelling at night,” Britain’s foreign office said on its website.

Montego Bay has seen its murder rate rise over several years with a record 335 deaths in 2017, most tied to gang violence, and an illegal lottery scam that has fleeced hundreds of mostly older Americans out of millions of dollars.

Earlier in the week, Holness had said his government had “reached the point where we are now prepared to take these firm and resolute measures to ensure that the crime monster does not destabilize the promising future that is in store for Jamaica.”

He added that under the state of public emergency the security forces will have extraordinary powers, and some rights will be suspended, but said it did not mean that force would be arbitrary or beyond review.

Fitz Jackson, a spokesman for the opposition, said his People’s National Party “lends qualified support to this effort and will await the regulations governing the operations of the state of emergency which are required to be placed before the Parliament.”

The move was also supported by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, citing the danger violence represents to the tourism-dependent economy.

Amnesty International has in the past criticized Jamaican authorities for a large number of unlawful killings carried out by police and their intimidation of victims’ families.

Jamaica, with a population of 2.7 million, recorded 43 murders per 100,000 in 2015, one of the world’s highest rates.

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36 comments

  1. How is this possible. Jamaica has banned private ownership of firearms since 1974. Still, almost 10 times the rate of homicide compared to USA where firearm ownership is widespread. Could it be that there is something else responsible for this high rate other than firearms? Since these elevated rates are common in the Caribbean, there must be some common denominator that we could find.

    • Poverty?

    • Very different culture when it comes to guns and attitudes between the US and Jamaica. Here in the US, most criminals are afraid to use guns against normal people because there is a chance they will attract a lot of attention or get shot themselves in retaliation, either by a concealed carry holder or by the police. The US is very culturally independent, where people know better than to mess around with their neighbor. Poverty is also an issue in both countries, but it seems that poverty using guns is a much bigger problem in Jamaica. A majority of gun crimes in the US are committed with either guns that were stolen or illegally obtained.

      • You missed out the part where the guns that are “illegally obtained” or “stolen” are already legal. They may have been through several cycles of trafficking or thievery, but they start out as a legal object.

        Therein lies the problem.

    • I don’t know about Jamaica, but Honduras has very loose gun laws. If it has such loose restrictions why is it’s murder rate so high?

      The lack of logic in these arguments is epic.

    • It’s all about the perceived value of a human life. All societies don’t hold it in the same regard – Americans support ownership of firearms to protect persons & property. – they don’t hold licensed weapons to kill each other. Theoretically.

    • What dont you understand? In the US we that carry are chading the criminal element from our communities with the exception of cali, NJ, MD, Ill, who ban carrying concealed those states have the highest crime rates. Due to the fact only criminals have the guns there. In my state PA if a criminal holds up at convenience store he will prob get shot by one of us thus less crime. We want criminals to have fear. Go live in California best place to be a criminal

  2. I’ll say it… black people

    • No,its not black people it’s the push of the outside forces to destabilize the country and paint good people in a bad light. I support the call for the military to police the situation and to root out the gunmen causing fear in our beautiful Island. God bless Jamaica

    • No, it’s not black people…one of the underlying problems with gun violence is the elephant in the closet “mental illness”. It fuels the illegal ownership and use of gun violence. Gun violence has no color, geographical borders, boundaries, face, nor ethnicity.

    • Your oblivious. Obviously you’ve never been to Jamaica. Bigot!

    • Thank You Gregg..black people.

    • It’s not a race thing, it’s poverty, if they were all white samething would of apply, stop been a racist cunt.

    • That’s just another ignorant racist stigma you are propagating there, if the country was in the same sate financially and had the same living conditions and everyone was white, brown or yellow, the very same gun problems will still exist, it has nothing to do with the color of skin you racist git. Skin color does not predispose you to gun violence or crime. But you know this, you just need to feel elite because you have very low self-esteem. Nice… you’re a wonderful person… karma comes for everyone.

    • Not just Black people: Black people who subscribe to a certain culture — as described years ago by Dr. Thomas Sowell, the great (Black) economist.

  3. It’s poverty 1st and corruption rooted way back that ha grown out of control. The government has alot to do with it. GOD BLESS YARD!!

  4. That is actually an astounding murder rate.

    Some of the assertions within the article are wrong, they’ve giving the population and murder total for the State (or Parish) of St. James (which is high enough as it is), not Montego Bay.

    When you consider the vast majority of murders in St. James apparently take place in Montego Bay with a population of 110,000, that is scary.

  5. It is poverty, the government are letting all these foreign countries (aisa etc.,) capitalize on the countries needs, making billions, charging tolls for new highways, taking more taxes from the poor people and they are getting poorer by the year and these foreigners are getting rich from it. The people in this country can’t afford much let alone to stay in the lavish resorts that are built by foreigners, the government has sold the soul of Jamaica to line their pockets. Very sad.

    • I have been many times dating back to 1980. This in my opinion is goverment related . Take the trourism money but give nothing back to the local population.The only upgrades i have seen are airports and roads only leading to to resorts. I guess locals there are getting desperate just to make ends meet . Sad situation was going to go back this year 2018 but have changed plans only hurts the locals working in tourisum .Cheers

  6. The main reason why crime is unabated in Jamaica is that corruption as become part of our culture.,for instance if you look into the statistics of the crime rate against these Parliamentarians/prominent politicians and their immediate or close relative its almost non existent.This fact is not a coincidence.Most of these people are tied into organised crime.They are almost untouchable with all these murder crime rates especially.That why the powers that be are too slow to act and in every case ineffective .These criminals out there are protected because they have too much secrets for them.I live most of part of my live as police in Jamaica and also trained in collecting data and was part of a criminal intelligence unit.Crime will not stop until you uproot the root cause of the problem.You need an independent unit that operates like the FBI.

  7. Maybe gangs fighting for the drug trade ever ten steps you take you have smoke blown in your face and pestered to buy drugs for one I will never go back to that drug infested island

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