When most people think of Jamaica they envision pristine white beaches, clear ocean water, and the warm Caribbean sunshine in ample supply. Little, if any, thought is given to the vicious underbelly of the tropical paradise. Jamaica is an island where violent crime is a way of life in many of the island’s poorest neighborhoods. Recently, however, there has been a surge in the number of violent crimes in the St. James Parish area. This section of the island includes Montego Bay and resorts. The increase in violence forced Jamaica’s Prime Minister Alex Holness to declare a state of emergency for St James Parish last Thursday. Martial law has been declared in the area, while military and security forces have moved in. Checkpoints have been set up, and patrols are moving through the streets.
After the declaration was made, Canada and Great Britain issued warnings to their citizens on the island, advising them to exercise caution. The US State Department issued advisories earlier in the month and has suggested that US citizens not venture outside of the resort compounds that they’re staying at.
This is not the first time Jamaica has been forced to declare a state of emergency because of criminal activity. The 2010 Kingston Unrest that followed the attempted extradition of Jamaican drug lord Christopher Coke, lasting for a month. Over 700 people were arrested and 70 civilians killed. The current state of emergency is unlikely to spiral into the same sort of long term unrest, but the simple fact something similar is happening again raises questions about the nation’s stability.
The stability of some Caribbean islands and possessions was put to the test during Hurricane Irma’s jaunt through the region in September, 2017, and the results were anything but encouraging. Storm damage severely damaged the infrastructure in Saint Martin and led to food and water shortages. Reports of violence and looting led to the dispatch of French and Dutch troops. British law enforcement officers, and a small number of troops were deployed into affected British Overseas Territories where order had to be restored.