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The Decatur House Break-In

Last week, management at Decatur House revealed that the historic mansion had experienced every D.C. homeowner’s nightmare: a burglary. Sometime before July 10, thieves absconded with a four-piece historic silver coffee service valued at $7,500, the first reported theft since the Lafayette Square house opened as a museum during the 1950s.

A simple case of tourists walking off with precious antiques? We doubt it. Decatur House’s neighbor—the White House—is the most heavily guarded residence this side of Saddam Hussein’s bunker. Could the presidential security phalanx really have allowed some common criminal to slip through its perimeter? Sure they could, says the Washington City Paper’s tireless team of conspiracy-watchers, if someone had an agenda. Here’s a handful of candidates:

Suspect:

Hillary Clinton

Motive:

Furnishing her new home. New York Senate candidate Clinton has been attacked as a carpetbagger. But nothing connotes permanence and deep roots like antique silver. Pour coffee from the stolen service for some local media types and voila, the first lady’s Empire State bona fides are secure.

Means:

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Distraction. A simple promenade around Lafayette Square by celebrity Hillary draws gawkers from miles away. And the first lady’s presence would surely attract the gaze of Decatur House guards, too—who therefore wouldn’t notice one of her henchmen making off with the silver.

Suspect:

D.C. Parking Police

Motive:

Make up for lost revenue. When the Secret Service closed Pennsylvania Avenue to car traffic in 1997, D.C. lost tens of thousands of dollars in parking meter fees. Swiping the silver helps the city make up for its loss.

Means:

Creative booting. City staffers could slap boots on the cars of Decatur House higher-ups. Then, while the officials were stuck in line trying to pay tickets at the Bureau of Traffic Adjudication, D.C. loyalists could make off with the booty.

Suspect:

Bill Richardson

Motive:

Souvenir hunting. His vice presidential ambitions ruined by a nuclear-security scandal, Energy Secretary Richardson will be lucky to get so much as a dinner invite in the next administration. Like any good departing political appointee, he might want to leave town with some quality capital city souvenirs.

Means:

Guard-duty assignments. Richardson, whose department has its own large and recently blunder-prone security force, could easily transfer some of those guards from Los Alamos to Lafayette Square. If they could lose top-secret hard drives, they could surely miss a few pieces of silver. —Stephanie Mencimer and Michael Schaffer