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Wednesday 1 May 2019

Meet the popular travel destination with more murders than Midsomer

Jamaica, known for its ritzy beach resorts and as the birthplace of reggae music, has declared a state of emergency after a surge in violent crime and murders. 

The state of emergency covers the western part of the Caribbean island and includes the popular tourist resorts of Montego Bay (below) and Negril.

It takes in the parishes of St James, which includes Montego Bay, and Hanover and Westmoreland, which include Negril.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness said: "After careful consideration and review of the crime statistics, in particular violent crimes which have been committed in south-western parishes, the security forces have advised that the situation which now currently exists would warrant the Government advising the Governor General to proclaim a state of public emergency."

Since the start of 2019 there have been 29 murders in Westmoreland, 27 in St James and 18 in Hanover.

The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) told the Jamaica Observer that while its membership would have preferred not to have to deal with the negative publicity that an SOE will cause in the tourism market they "fully understand that this action has been precipitated by the return of an unacceptable level of shootings and murders in western Jamaica".

"To that end, the JHTA puts its full support behind the Government in its efforts to bring this unacceptable state of affairs under control," the association said.

The Foreign Office warned visitors that the special measures could lead to curfews, road closures and travel delays - hardly likely to encourage tourism.

The State of Emergency will remain in place for 14 days initially. After that it needs a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, for it to be extended for three months at a time.

Commissioner of Police Major Antony Anderson said Westmoreland, Hanover and St James have been experiencing "significant levels" of gangsta criminality, the Jamaica Star newspaper reported.

Westmoreland, in particular, he said, is on track to record 90 murders this year. He said that St James has seen a 70% increase in murders this year.

"It was these figures and the challenge of violence in these places that caused myself and the (CDS) Chief of Defence Staff to recommend to the prime minister that we declare a state of emergency in these areas. We must save lives!" Anderson said.

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