U.S. senators and their families whose homes in the McLean area have been vandalized by the so-called Silver Gang have some advice for the unwary silver owner.
Hide your jewelry in the dirty clothes.
Secrete your chest of silver in the clothes dryer.
Put any treasure in the sleeves of the clothes you have stored in bags for winter.
Put your mink coat in the freezer. These are hiding places where burglars always look first. Most suggest the only workable deterrent is to have your house wired for security by a reputable firm.
Maryon Allen is now a senator (D. Ala.) in her own right after the death of her husband James B. Allen. She vividly remembers coming home three years ago and finding all her jewelry gone after she had "safely" deposited it in the soiled clothes hamper. The Silver Gang had looked there. They seem always to check the freezer, the dryer and those bags with winter clothes. Her loss totalled $80,000.
Allen believes so strongly in having your home wired for security and peace of mind that she has talked some other senators into doing as she has.
And so has Marcelle Leahy, wife of Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt).
Leahy hates to talk about that day when she came home after the end of the Democratic National Convention in 1976 and found her home ransacked.
"I have tried to block it out of my mind," she says. All her sterling silver, many wedding presents and a coin collection vanished. The thieves had broken a glass in a glass door, reached in, turned the knob and walked right in.
Now they have a security system that carries a smoke and fire alarm.
Sen. Lawton Chiles (D-Fla.), who literally walked his way around the entire state of Florida when he was elected to the Senate seven years ago, had no Seven League boots to help him escape vandals in McLean.
He and his wife, Rhea, and four children had just moved into a new home two years ago when vandals broke in the back door and stole all her jewelry and silver.
"We had gone away for Christmas," says Rhea Chiles. "They just broke the lock on the back door and walked in.
"Our packing boxes were all over the house. We hadn't even started to unpack."
Now the Chileses have given up a house and taken an apartment in the Regency, where security is tight.
Sen. and Mrs. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have always had a security system at the house they built on the edge of the Potomac River in McLean.
There are many different systems, but Allen uses the Westinghouse system. It was installed by Ronald W. Cain of the McLean area. Cain says that of the 800 such home systems in the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. area, 400 are in the McLean area. The system can be installed for a cost of between $700 and $17,000, depending on the size of the house. It costs $15 a month in service charge.
Cain says that silver owners depend too often on their imagination, but thieves have a greater imagination.
"Some housewives think their valuables are perfectly safe in the attic or cellar, but those two spots are searched right off by burlgars," says Cain.
Then there is the ingenious housewife, who has her own potter's wheel.
"She encases her valuable ring or necklase in a clay pot," he says. "You have to break the pot to get at it. Well, burglars are on to all these tricks right off."