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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
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Bermuda 2020 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, which oversees security for U.S. interests in Bermuda. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Bermuda. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Bermuda page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Travel Advisory

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Bermuda at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

Crime Threats

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bermuda as being a LOW-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Crime in Bermuda is trending downward. Between 2008 and 2012, crime in all categories was negatively impacted by unprecedented gang activity. Since 2012, decreasing crime trends have been reflective of significantly less gang activity and the positive results of policing enforcement and collective government responses. Notwithstanding those successes, the impact of sustained socioeconomic decline is having a negative impact on recent crime trends, exemplified by some brazen commercial robberies.

Gang activity plagued Bermuda between 2009 and 2012, and after a period of calm, it has shown some evidence of returning in the last two years. Gang activity is generally insular and there have been no reports of gang violence targeting visitors. Despite evidence of increasing gang tensions, overall records of firearms incidents – predominately associated to gang activity (confirmed and unconfirmed) – fell from 82 in 2016 to 47 in 2017. Despite there being no recorded homicides in 2019, there were four firearm incidents in early February 2020; an indication retaliatory gang activity may reemerge.

Compared to the United States, Bermuda’s crime rate is low. Petty crime is most common. Valuables left unattended in public areas, in unsecured hotel rooms, or on rental motorbikes may be vulnerable to theft. Criminals target visitors on motorbikes and at popular tourist attractions, and purse snatchings (generally involving thieves on motorbikes) and muggings occur occasionally. Avoid the back streets in Hamilton due to greater risk of nighttime assault, particularly after bars close. Avoid unlighted back streets and out-of-the-way areas, due both to increased risk of crime and because narrow and dark roadways can contribute to traffic accidents. A good security mindset and common sense should be sufficient to prevent visitors from becoming victims of crime or violence. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should Leave Behind.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.

Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and Outs and Considerations for Hotel Security.

Bermuda released the following statistics in December 2019 based on inter-agency data collection.

YEAR

Crime Against Persons

Crimes Against Community

Crime Against Property

Total Crime

Arrest

Firearm Incidents

Firearm Fatalities

2016

740

408

2428

3576

2526

82

5

2017

645

413

2144

3202

2442

47

3

2018

721

555

2416

3692

2728

36

3

*2019

635

462

1880

2977

3362

 

 

*As of December 9, 2019

Cybersecurity Issues

Cyber-crime, such as identity theft, credit card fraud, and phishing, are rare in Bermuda. However, visitors should be prudent and protect all personally identifiable information, and not leave personal electronic items unattended. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Vehicles use the left side and roads are very narrow, often with no defined shoulder. The maximum speed in the city of Hamilton is 25 kph (15 mph) with a 35 kph (21 mph) limit on the rest of the island. However, traffic typically moves much faster, with average speeds closer to 50kph (31mph) or more, occasionally resulting in traffic collisions. Under Bermudian law, non-residents may not own, rent, or drive traditional four-wheeled vehicles. Non-residents must rely on taxis, the local bus system, rented motorbikes, or mico-sized 4-wheel electric vehicles. Traffic volume is moderate, and there are backups during rush hour in Hamilton. Bermuda has enjoyed an overall decrease in traffic incidents over the last five years, due largely to greater emphasis on policing. Road collisions – particularly involving motorbikes – are common and can result in serious injuries or death. On average, there is one traffic fatality per month.

Rental motorbikes are readily available, and the required helmet is provided. Carefully consider the significant risks of riding a motorbike. Most traffic accidents involve motorbikes, and local operators tend to exceed the speed limit and ignore other regulations, increasing the risk to themselves and other drivers. Main roads, while generally in good condition, are extremely narrow and tend to border heavy vegetation or stone walls.

Statistics released by the Bermuda Hospitals Board showed providers treated 1,794 patients in 2019 for injuries sustained in traffic accidents — a 3.1% increase on the year before. Seven victims died of their injuries in 2019, compared with 12 in the preceding year. Tourists accounted for 137 of the injures.

Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.

Public Transportation Conditions

Taxis are readily available. The local bus system serves the length of the island and stops close to most beaches and hotels, the downtown shopping area, and other points of interest. A frequent commuter ferry service connects the central and western parts of the island, with less frequent service to east end.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Bermuda’s L.F. Wade International Airport (BDA) offers direct flights to and from New York, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Toronto, and London, with other U.S. destinations such as Washington, Philadelphia, and Newark available on a seasonal basis. The airport is compliant with international standards and serves military and private jets via a privately-operated Fixed Base Office at a separate apron within the terminal complex. The government is building a new terminal on the existing airport site, scheduled to open in 2020.

Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Maritime Travel Conditions

The high season for seasonally operated cruise ships from the U.S. Eastern seaboard is between April and November, but ships dock occasionally throughout the year. Typically, Bermuda is a single-stop destination for cruise lines, with ships remaining in port for approximately three days. Additionally, Bermuda is a popular destination for private sailboats, typically sailing from the Caribbean.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bermuda as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. There are no local, regional or international terrorism threats or concerns known to the Bermudian government aside from the global threat posed by extremist groups generally.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

 

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Bermuda as being a LOW-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Bermuda is a dependency of the UK, but has an independent bicameral legislature with a mature constitution that permits near-independent self-rule. Bermuda enjoys a reputation for personal wealth and success promoted by tourism, and an international business-friendly environment. Notwithstanding, the Bermudian economy is recently recovering after eight years of recession that has exasperated tensions between social and political groups, occasionally resulting in protests. Protests are generally peaceful, with short-term work stoppages the most common consequence. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Bermuda has among the highest ratios of churches per capita in the world, including numerous religious denominations. Though some churches are politically and socially active, there is no evidence of associated risk or violence. Ethnicity is black 52%, white 31%, mixed 9%, Asian 4%, other 4%, unspecified 0.1% (2016 est.), with an increasing percentage of Asian residents. There is some public criticism of foreign workers, who some local residents blame for taking native jobs, but there is no evidence of racial or ethnic based violence. 

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

There is no notable anti-U.S. sentiment.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Hurricanes hit Bermuda often during hurricane season, which runs from June through November. However, thanks to its robust infrastructure and competent emergency response capabilities, storm impacts are usually less significant compared to similar jurisdictions. As approaching storms threaten the island, the U.S. Consulate General will send messages with forecast updates and safety instructions.

Critical Infrastructure Concerns

Bermuda has an effective and well-tested physical and organizational infrastructure to manage emergency situations.

Economic Concerns/Intellectual Property Theft

Law enforcement agencies in Bermuda have neither received nor investigated any complaints of economic espionage or intellectual property theft. Bermuda has a robust legal community with a significant capacity to deal with either issue should such incidents arise.

Personal information and other aspects of privacy are respected in both corporate and private environments. Local legislation such as The Data Protection Act exists to protect privacy and privileged relationships. Most corporate entities also have internal directives to restrict the sharing of information. There is no evidence of widespread misuse of locally sourced information.

Personal Identity Concerns

Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.

Bermudians are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Bermuda Human Rights Act (1981), which subject to recent amendment, now forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. Same-sex marriage is legal in Bermuda as of 2018. The issue made international headlines after the Bermudian Supreme Court initially legalized the practice in May 2017, but the Bermudian Parliament passed a bill banning same-sex marriage in December 2017. In response to the ban, the Supreme Court ultimately upheld its original ruling after two legal challenges. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for LGBTI+ travelers.

Review OSAC’s report, Freedom to Practice, and the State Department’s webpage on security for faith-based travelers.

Bermuda does not currently have legislation on access to transportation, communication, and public buildings for persons with disabilities. Very few hotels would be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Always check with the hotel or property where you will be staying to see if their dimensions for rooms, doors, and bathrooms are ADA-compliant. Outside of Hamilton, sidewalks are generally unavailable or not suitable for wheelchairs. Public ferries are handicap accessible, as are some public buses, but most bus stops are not. Handicap accessible taxis are available for hire in Bermuda. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.

Drug-related Crime

Drug crime accounts for a significant proportion of overall crime in Bermuda. Almost all drugs are imported and have a high street value, making Bermuda a sought-after market for overseas suppliers. Marijuana, cocaine, and heroin (and their derivatives) are commonly available at street level and elsewhere. There is no evidence to support the presence or use of methamphetamines, but there have been at least to seizures of fentanyl. There were a total of 419 drug-related arrests in 2017 compared to 347 in 2016. Recent legislation has decriminalized personal possession of marijuana of less than seven grams.

The Bermuda Government is exploring the legalization of medicinal marijuana. The consequences of such action are unknown and currently under evaluation by the government and Bermuda Police Service. It is likely the legalization measures will go into effect this year.

Kidnapping Threat

There are no instances of kidnapping. However, the large numbers of very wealthy visitors may present a high profile a target of opportunity. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.

Other Issues

Her Majesty’s Customs Service has primacy to police all ports of entry, with a view to interdicting contraband and collecting customs import revenue. Bermuda strictly enforces its laws restricting the entry of weapons and ammunition. Entering Bermuda with a firearm, some bladed instruments, an ammunition magazine, or even a single round of ammunition is illegal, even if the weapon or ammunition is taken into the country unintentionally. Travelers must seek permission to import or own a gun in Bermuda in advance from the Bermuda Police Service. Owners of any privately owned firearms must secure them at Bermuda Police Headquarters. Violations may result in arrest, convictions, and potentially long prison sentences. Bermuda considers pepper sprays and stun guns illegal, dangerous weapons. Read the State Department’s webpage on customs and import restrictions for information on what you cannot take into or out of other countries.

Police Response

The emergency line in Bermuda is 911. The Police Dispatch center will contact the emergency appropriate service.

The Bermuda Police is a modern and competent organization, which operates under UK legal standards and internationally recognized best practices. The Bermuda Police Service provides a number of policing resources, including routine patrol, criminal investigation, narcotic investigation, traffic enforcement, marine patrol, community engagement, intelligence, financial crime investigation, forensic support, family liaison, and others.

Although Bermuda does not have a formalized victims of crime program, there is a Criminal Injuries Compensation Board at 113 Front Street in Hamilton. Call +441-292-1350.

The Bermuda Immigration Department monitors, among other things, the presence on island of visitors and foreign residents, and issues passports for Bermudians.

Medical Emergencies

Although expensive, adequate medical care is available for routine procedures. Bermuda’s lone hospital performs general surgery and has an emergency room and intensive care unit. Serious or complex medical issues typically require medical evacuation (medevac) to the United States. Find contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S. Consulate website.

Bermuda has an existing agreement with the Lahey Hospital in Burlington, MA, to provide medical services for Bermudians and other residents that may not be available on the island. Bermudian medical insurance generally covers these treatments and medevac. Most Bermudian health care providers, including the local hospital, do not accept overseas insurance and will expect payment at the time of service. The U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health insurance that includes medevac service before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.

You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water in Bermuda. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

Rabies is present in bats in Bermuda. However, it is not a major risk to most travelers. CDC recommends rabies vaccine for travelers involved in outdoor and other activities in remote areas that put them at risk for bat bites (such as adventure travel and caving), and for people who will be working with or around bats (such as wildlife professionals and researchers).

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Bermuda.

Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.

OSAC Country Council Information

Bermuda does not have an active OSAC Country Council. Contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team for more information.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

16 Middle Road, Devonshire DV 03

Hours: Monday through Friday from 0800-1630

Telephone: + (441) 295-1342

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: + (441) 335-3828

HamiltonConsulate@state.gov

Helpful Information

Before you travel, consider the following resources:

·         OSAC Risk Matrix

·         OSAC Travelers Toolkit

·         State Department Traveler’s Checklist

·         Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

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