Against Bermuda’s bucolic backdrop, the specter of crime—even the petty variety (handbag snatches, break-ins)—may seem out of place. But it is an unfortunate reality of modern life. Every parish has its share of neighborhoods plagued by perennial drug problems, the catalyst for most of the island’s criminal activity; gangs and drug abuse appear to be the biggest factors driving an increase in violent crime in Bermuda in recent years. For the visitor, this flip side of local life is usually barely visible, but it is there nonetheless, and sensible measures should be taken to guard against opportunistic crime.
Closed-circuit surveillance cameras are installed on North Hamilton’s Court Street and Pembroke ’s Pitts Bay Road—two economically divergent neighborhoods, yet both areas where police have recorded a high number of crimes, ranging from bag-snatchings to assaults and drug-related incidents. Cameras in other parts of the city have reduced the number of bike thefts, bag snatches, and public nuisances.
Protect your belongings and use the same street sense and practical judgment you would anywhere else in the world. The most common crime is bag-snatching, from beaches, scooter baskets, or, on rare occasions, from scooter-riders wearing bags over one arm—sometimes leading to traffic accidents and injuries. Visitors are not the only victims; Bermuda residents are also targets, though most have learned to lock away handbags, knapsacks, or shopping items in compartments attached to the back or under the scooter seat, or to strap down belongings in a rear basket with bungee cords looped through bag handles. Thieves have also targeted tourists strolling through Hamilton’s streets at night, notably in quiet, seemingly safe, upscale neighborhoods such as Pitts Bay, where numerous hotels and guesthouses are located.
Take cabs at night if you are traveling alone. Be aware of your surroundings, keep wallets or purses out of sight, and wear long-strapped bags across your body, or hold them firmly to avoid becoming easy prey. On beaches, don’t leave belongings unattended, or if you do, don’t carry valuables and money. It is not unusual for swimmers to come back from a swim to find belongings gone or bags missing contents.
Break-ins and home burglaries do occur throughout the parishes, and again, Bermudian householders face a similar risk. Indeed, although leaving doors unlocked was the oft-touted neighborhood habit of decades past, well-informed residents rarely leave their homes unlocked anymore when they’re out. Most locals also lock doors and windows overnight when they’re sleeping. Tourist properties, particularly guesthouses and rental cottages outside the more secure confines of a hotel, are frequently targeted. Thieves know that windows and sliding-glass doors at holiday properties are often left open through ignorance or to let in the breeze if there’s no air-conditioning. Easy-to-cut screens are no deterrent. Thieves commonly break into rooms and residences when inhabitants are sleeping, though break-ins have rarely turned violent. Use hotel property safes to store valuables, and lock your room or house at night and when you’re not around.
Scooters are favorite targets of thieves, who usually go for joyrides or scavenge for spare parts before dumping the remains on the roadside. Lock up your scooter or moped whenever you leave it. Scooters sometimes have both an ignition lock and a provided U-lock to place on the back wheel. It’s a drag to have to fiddle with several times a day, but well worth the effort. Other bikes are safe as long as the ignition key is removed. If your rental scooter or bike is stolen, contact the livery, which will usually collect you if you’re stranded and notify the police.
Violence against women in Bermuda has increased in recent years, along with violent crime in general. The Bermuda Police Service advises women traveling alone to choose well-lit routes and areas, to check vehicle gas regularly so you don’t find yourself stranded, and to carry a cell phone, flashlight, or warning device such as a small air horn.
Stay alert if you are walking or running alone—for example, along remote stretches of the Railway Trail or in large parks such as Spittal Pond  or Hog Bay. If possible, women should avoid exploring or traveling alone in these areas; for safety, try to join organized groups of runners, walkers, or hikers, or take along a companion.
Travelers tired of harassment in the Caribbean will appreciate being left alone in Bermuda; rarely are drugs offered or sold in public, and purveyors of services such as car-washing or hair-braiding generally do not actively solicit clients, foreigners included. In recent years, Hamilton has experienced a minor problem with panhandling. Use your own judgment: Give spare change if you wish, simply ignore panhandlers, or say no and move on, as most Bermudians do.