The Government of Jamaica declared a state of Public Emergency for the western parish of St. James – home to the tourist capital of Montego Bay on Thursday.At a press conference, Prime Minister Andrew Holness said he made the recommendation for a state of public emergency to Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, who signed a proclamation dated January 18.“The proclamation has been gazetted, and a state of public emergency is now in effect for the parish of St. James” said Holness.Extraordinary powersThe Prime Minister stated that under the state of emergency, the security forces will have extraordinary powers.“This does not mean that the use of these extraordinary powers are arbitrary or beyond review. This does not mean the suspension of the rule of law. The security forces are expected and have been directed to treat citizens with respect and protect the dignity and safety of all.Will create general discomfortHe added that the operations although directed at criminals and their facilitators, will create some level of general discomfort.“We ask the public to cooperate with the security forces. Now is the time, if you know where the guns are, please tell us. If you know where the criminals are, please tell us,” said Holness who added that the “rewards for guns program” is still in effect.Activities may be curtailedMeanwhile, National Security Minister Robert Montague warned residents that several activities may be curtailed. “We will be relentless as we pursue the criminals. We therefore seek the patience and understanding of all citizens. As you travel, you will encounter roadblocks. Although there will be instances where some activities will be curtailed, as much as possible we do not intend to stop the good citizens from doing what they would normally do in the scope of things.St. James presented major challengeFor his part, Police Commissioner George Quallo said the parish has presented a major challenge to police operations. “There are numerous gangs operating in St. James. They are involved in murders, shootings, scams, extortions and other illicit activities. They use murder as a tool to further their criminal interest, they create an atmosphere of insecurity throughout St. James and surrounding areas.”Main objective – disrupt gang activitiesThe Commissioner said the key operational objectives of the security forces is to disrupt the activities of these gangs. “One of primary activities is also the protection of the rights of citizens. We will be going after wanted men, seizing weapons and taking back our communities. We want to ensure the public that the security forces are there for your protection.”Hotline establishedQuallo also noted that a hotline has been established for citizens to register their concerns and get information about activities of the security forces. He added that last year there were 335 murders in St. James, almost twice the number committed in the central parish of Clarendon, that had the second highest number of killings.A State of Emergency related to crime and violence was last imposed in a section of Jamaica eight years ago during the operation to capture the fugitive Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke. That State of Emergency covered Kingston & St. Andrew and St. Catherine.