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The Secret Service motorcade carrying 7 year-old Sasha Obama departs Sidwell Friends School after dropping off her sister Malia, on the first day of school on January 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. The incoming first family are staying at the luxury Hay-Adams Hotel, with a view of the White House before moving to the president's official guest home, Blair House, on January 15. AFP PHOTO/Karen BLEIER (Photo credit should read KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
If you live, work or frequently travel through the District, chances are you have been inconvenienced by a diplomatic motorcade, whether presidential or not.
The not-uncommon tension between appropriate security levels and public good is flaring again, after an incident that involved a Randallsville, Md., woman who attended the Congressional Black Caucus Dinner Saturday night, The Washington Post reported.
Martena Clinton, 64, parked her 1994 Lexus in a handicapped spot near the intersection of 9th Street and Mt. Vernon Place. She told The Post that she checked with a police officer who happened to be parked behind her, and he assured her the spot was legal. Clinton prominently displayed a handicapped tag that she has because her husband suffered a stroke, locked her valuables in the car and went into the dinner, anticipating a speech from President Barack Obama.
When Clinton emerged from the Convention Center after the dinner, she found an empty space where her car had been parked, she told The Post.
The police officer who responded to Clinton’s call told her the Secret Service had ordered numerous cars removed from the area as a security precaution, The Post reported. Police also told her that relocated vehicles are typically towed to different spots within a few blocks. Generally the car can be found once the driver provides police with a license plate number.
But Clinton said police told her that while the District's tow trucks might have moved the car, the trucks are operated by civilians who are supposed to note the car's license plate number and new location, The Post reported. In this case, it appears the tower did not take notes. Further complicating matter, police said they did not have a roster of tow-truck operators and therefore could not track down who moved the car.
By 1:30 a.m., police had searched a one-mile radius of the convention center without finding the Lexus. An officer helped Clinton find a room for the night at a downtown hotel – at Clinton’s expense. The friend who invited Clinton to the dinner, Gardine Tiggle, stayed with her. The next morning they resumed the search, The Post reported.
"We don't know if it has been lost or stolen," said Lt. Jonathan Munk, of the 3rd District, who was supervising the search. "I was told the cars were relocated, but we don't know. It could have been stolen. We just don't know."
Clinton and Tiggle were skeptical that a 1994 Lexus would have been stolen in an area with so many police officers and the Secret Service, The Post reported.
After calling police, the mayor’s office and the Secret Service, the two women were left with little more than frustration.
"We have been told at least four times that this is an issue they are having with several vehicles," said Tiggle, speaking of the District police. "It is their responsibility. They moved it. They tell us, 'If we find the car' - not when we find the car - 'we will call you. If we cannot find it in 30 days, you should call your insurance company.' This is totally insane."
When police failed to find the car by Sunday afternoon, and stopped returning calls, Clinton gave up. Tiggle offered to drive her home. Clinton was on the phone giving a Post reporter an update when they turned onto New York Avenue around the corner from the convention center.
There it was.
Clinton’s black Lexus had apparently been parked a half block from the convention center the whole time. It was in front of a fire hydrant, in a no-parking zone.
Luckily, police didn't find the car to ticket it, either.
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