A small toddler has caused quite a stir after successfully infiltrating the White House in Washington, DC. The child managed to slip through the metal fence surrounding the building, which was installed in 2022. The incident occurred on Tuesday morning and prompted officers from the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division to walk across the executive mansion’s North Lawn to intercept the youngster. Access to the public area of the complex was briefly restricted as the officers worked to return the toddler to his parents on Pennsylvania Avenue.
According to Secret Service spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, officers “encountered a curious young visitor along the White House north fence line who briefly entered White House grounds”. He went on to explain that “the White House security systems instantly triggered Secret Service officers, and the toddler and parents were quickly reunited”.
The National Park Service constructed a new fence in front of the White House in 2022, replacing the previous two-metre-tall (6.6-foot) fence with a nearly four-metre (13-foot) one. The National Park Service stated that “the new fence incorporates anti-climb and intrusion detection technology and is designed to mitigate current and future security threats”.
While taller, the new fence has an additional inch of space between pickets, for a total of 14cm (5.5 inches) between posts — just enough clearance for a small child to slip through. The toddler’s successful infiltration may be the first since the new fence was installed, according to the Associated Press. In the past, older children have become stuck in the barrier, which has also been the site of demonstrations, with protesters chaining themselves to the fence.
Prior to the fence’s replacement, attempts – some successful – to vault the barrier had been relatively common. For example, a man draped in an American flag managed to do so on November 25 during a Thanksgiving celebration at the mansion. In 2017, authorities found 38-year-old Marci Wahl hanging from her shoelaces inside the fence on the south side of the White House. She had apparently become stuck as she sought to scale the posts.
The Secret Service did not immediately comment on the incident with the toddler. Officers briefly questioned the parents before allowing them to continue on their way. The toddler’s foray into the executive branch may be a first, but it is unlikely to be the last time someone attempts to breach the White House’s security measures. However, with the new fence in place, it is hoped that such attempts will be few and far between.