Crime likely to impact tourism in MoBay

September 30, 2016
Jermaine Barnaby Photo Despite the high police and military presence, these tourists were seen walking along the Hip Strip in Montego Bay on Tuesday.

About 30 years ago, I was living and working in Montego Bay and having a lot of fun doing so. But one day while walking on St James Street towards the city centre, a young man who I knew called out to me. I stopped right next to the gully where so many Lada taxis used to park back then, waiting to take passengers to adjoining communities.

He then walked up to me and proceeded to rob me of my shoes and belt and then fled. A few days later, I saw him in Glendevon but decided to let the matter go. He probably needed the shoes and the belt more than I did. Besides, he was hanging out with a bunch of mean-looking guys, so I didn't think it was a good idea to bring up the incident at that time.

It was about that time that I started to realise that MoBay was literally surrounded by several depressed communities. Glendevon, Somerton, Flankers, Tucker, and several other communities all provided workforce for the hotels and in-bond stores and other businesses in the town. But they also held their fair share of criminals that preyed upon the hardworking people in and around the bustling tourist capital.

 

signs of a downfall

 

I distinctly remember sitting in a bar one night and watching Rambo, thinking that if these communities ever got worse, Montego Bay and the many tourists who visited each year would be at risk. There were already signs. Hotels had become all-inclusive so guests didn't have to leave the hotel grounds to be entertained. Sure, they didn't get to interact with the local populace and the only time you would see visitors outside the hotels was when they were bussed to the in-bond stores, where they would mill around looking at watches, perfumes and cologne, which they would have already been familiar with where they were coming from.

The signs were there and things were not as bad, so no one paid attention.

A few years later while working at The Gleaner, my editor, the late Carl Wint, had me put together a weekly stat-sheet of information called 'Issues of Concern' that documented the weekly murders, the water levels of the reservoirs serving the Corporate Area, and power output from the Jamaica Public Service.

While collating the information, it was almost refreshing to note that Kingston, St Andrew, and St Catherine were the parishes responsible for the bulk of the murders committed on the island. St James, Hanover, and Trelawny usually had single digits like one, five, or maybe seven murders. That was less than one per week for the year.

Fast-forward two decades and I am seeing where St James alone already has 200 murders for the year. These days, not even Kingston and St Andrew or St Catherine can keep pace with the murder toll in St James.

The thing is, didn't the so-called stakeholders see this coming? If people are poor long enough and no matter how long they work they are still poor, invariably there is going to come a time when a generation acts out. That is what is happening with the lottery scam now that is making MoBay mirror what is happening in Chicago and some of the most violent communities in the world.

Now, everyone is talking about states of emergency, and it is just a matter of time before the United States releases an advisory about travelling to Montego Bay.

Meanwhile, I hear the minister of tourism talking about doubling tourism revenue.

I guess he doesn't see the disconnect. Nobody is going to visit any all-inclusive when there is a war just beyond its walls.

People are not going to save money all year to visit a country just to get killed. You can find sea and sun anywhere these days. Bullets are never a strong selling point for a destination. In this instance, bullets are only good enough to get you shot in the foot.

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