Why the US Govt warns Americans to reconsider travelling to Jamaica

Jamaica, a popular Caribbean tourist destination, is facing a surge of violence, prompting the U.S. government to issue a Level 3 travel advisory.

Jamaica, a popular tourist destination in the Caribbean, is facing a surge of violence that has prompted the U.S. government to issue a Level 3 travel advisory, advising Americans to reconsider travelling to the island “due to crime and [unreliable] medical services.”

The land of the former Holland estate is pictured, in St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica, April 28, 2023. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy(REUTERS)
The land of the former Holland estate is pictured, in St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica, April 28, 2023. REUTERS/Gilbert Bellamy(REUTERS)

The State Department made the announcement just days after it also warned about the Bahamas, another Caribbean nation that has seen a series of murders, but kept its Level 2 travel advisory, which advises Americans to “exercise increased caution.”

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The travel alerts come at a time when many Americans are making and booking their travel plans for the year ahead.

Crimes are common in Jamaica

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica said that the island is plagued by “violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.”

It also said that the Jamaican police are often ineffective in responding to serious criminal incidents. The advisory added that the medical services on the island are not always dependable and some private facilities may demand payment in advance.

The State Department pointed out that Jamaica has one of the highest homicide rates in the Western Hemisphere for several years.

Significant surge in crime rate

The Jamaica Constabulary Force, the national police force, published statistics that showed that the island, which has a population of about 2.8 million, had 65 homicides from Jan. 1 to Jan. 27 of this year. This was a significant decrease from the same period last year, when there were 81 homicides, but the number of shootings and people wounded in crimes went up this January compared to last. The data also showed a big decline in the number of rapes recorded in January 2024 compared to the previous year.

The Jamaica Gleaner, the oldest newspaper in the nation, reported on Monday that out of the 65 murders this month, 19 happened in the previous week alone.

In the Bahamas, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau said in a message on Jan. 24 that there had been 18 murders in the capital city since the start of the year, which had taken place “at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets.”

It said that most of the recent killings were related to gang violence and urged travellers to be very careful in the eastern part of New Providence Island (Nassau), especially if walking or driving at night.

“Do not physically resist any robbery attempt,” the embassy cautioned, and suggested that visitors should review their “personal security plans.”

Tourism is a vital sector for Jamaica’s economy, and the Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett told the country’s lawmakers in December that he expected the impressive growth trend seen in 2022 and 2023 to continue. However, the Jamaican Government needs to address the crime situation first.

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