Protecting herself: Burglary victim Penny Carruthers has increased security at her Paget home and says she will never again risk leaving a window open. *Photo by Tim Hall
Protecting herself: Burglary victim Penny Carruthers has increased security at her Paget home and says she will never again risk leaving a window open. *Photo by Tim Hall
Penny Carruthers is proof that anyone can fall victim to Bermuda's current burglary epidemic. Living in a quiet corner of Paget, her $3million house is replete with alarms, security lights and the sturdiest locks. In addition, her husband, David, is a former president of Crime stoppers.

However, in a momentary lapse, the Carruthers made a common mistake: they left a tiny gap open in a bathroom window. Burglars broke through the fly-screen, forced open the window and squeezed through into the house.

Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers returned from dinner at a friend's house to find cash, jewellery and a camera were missing, along with a bag that contained passports and personal items. The intruders even stole a piggy bank full of change that Mrs. Carruthers had been collecting for her new grandchild. Police believe the Carruthers must have disturbed the burglars because there were signs they had made a quick exit.

Mrs. Carruthers, 64, a retired consultant, said: "The main feeling is 'how dare they?' How dare these kids come into my home? What gives them the nerve? It's true what they say: it feels like such an invasion of privacy, and it makes you not want to trust anyone anymore. We lost some personal items that are impossible to replace, but the worst thing is the feeling of someone having been in here."

Burglary victims are understandably reticent to come forward to talk of their experiences, for fear they will be targeted again. Mrs. Carruthers agreed to be identified because she wants to help warn others to protect themselves.

She said: "I'd had the windows open during the day, and when we went out I went around and locked them all. I forgot about the one in the bathroom. It's easy to do; and anyway, who would imagine someone could squeeze through a gap so small?"

Mrs. Carruthers says she will never again risk leaving the bathroom window open. She and her husband, a retired Argus insurance executive, have now installed extra alarms, security lights and locks at their home, where they have lived for 20 years.

She said: "I also keep my jewellery in a safe. It's a sad state of affairs when you have to lock up like that in your own home. The trouble is you hear of it happening to more and more people."

What do you think? What's the best way to stem the burglary epidemic? E-mail editor Tony McWilliam: tmcwilliam@bermudasun.bm or leave your comments below.