Is it safe to travel to Jamaica right now?

By Jess McHugh
January 22, 2018

Several countries around the world, including the U.S., have issued travel warnings in the wake of a spate of violent crimes in Jamaica.

The warnings come after a series of violent incidents, including one in which a Canadian couple was murdered in their vacation home in St. Thomas Parish on the east side of the island earlier this month.

The Jamaican government issued a state of emergency Thursday, as law enforcement has looked to tackle organized crime, including gang violence related to drug and gun trafficking. Local authorities imposed a temporary curfew and increased the military presence in St. James Parish.

The U.S. State department issued a travel advisory Jan. 10, warning visitors to avoid some areas of Kingston, Montego Bay, and Spanish Town, because of violent crime. It has not updated its travel advisory since the announcement of a state of emergency.

"Violent crime, such as home invasions, armed robberies, and homicide, is common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, even at all-inclusive resorts. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents," the State Department wrote in its advisory.

A reported 1,350 murders, 1,216 shootings, 449 aggravated assaults, and 480 rapes took place in 2016, TIME reported, citing State Department figures.

Both the U.K. and Canada have issued similar warnings, urging travelers to take extra precautions at night and to avoid certain neighborhoods with high crime rates. The warning from the U.K. foreign office instructed British visitors to Jamaica to remain within the confines of their resorts and only to use transportation provide by their hotel or by airport transports.

Tourism officials from the Caribbean island have insisted that the country remains safe for tourists and that the current military operations will only improve safety in the future.

“These enhanced security measures are not out of the ordinary in international tourism markets and therefore would be understood by visitors and welcomed by residents," Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica's minister of tourism, told The Independent, adding, “All members of the tourism fraternity have given their full support to the measure and are feeling that these actions are welcome to ensure the safety of Jamaica’s guests and citizens."