Peter Aitken, Fox News, December 19, 2022
Jamaica’s state of emergency may threaten its tourism industry as crime continues to increase in the country and local authorities struggle to clamp down on it.
“That is all the government is trying to do,” Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, adding that Jamaicans “have to hide under their beds, hide their daughters, can’t go to church, and they see their sons and their boyfriends and husbands killed. That’s the reality.”
The U.S. State Department on Oct. 5 issued a level 3 travel advisory, indicating that Americans should “reconsider travel” due to an increased risk of crime in the country. The advisory noted that “violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults and homicides, are common” and that “sexual assaults occur frequently,” even at all-inclusive resorts.
“Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents,” the advisory stated. “Emergency services vary throughout the island, and response times may vary from U.S. standards. The homicide rate reported by the Government of Jamaica has for several years been among the highest in the Western Hemisphere.”
Jamaica appeared to acknowledge the severity of its problem by declaring a state of emergency on Nov. 15 in order to better empower authorities to deal with the crime in the capital of Kingston as well as popular tourist spots like Montego Bay, then it issued a renewed state of emergency on Dec. 6 due to increased violence and gang-related crimes.
The state of emergency has proven controversial as authorities can arrest people and search buildings without a warrant, potentially leading to police abuse, critics argue, but Holness stressed the need to crack down on the problem.
“We have some really serious criminal threats facing us, and we have to use all the powers at our disposal,” Holness said.
Tourism provides Jamaica its main source of income, accounting for as much as 29% of the country’s GDP in 2019 (pre-pandemic) according to Statista, and tied with remittances (money or goods sent back from nationals who emigrated from the country). Jamaica welcomed more than 1.5 million tourists in 2021 who spent more than $2.095 billion, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.