Wasfiyah Talib-Taylor  /  Westchester County Executive's Office via AP
Documents belonging to residents of Westchester County in New York are devoured Wednesday by this giant shredder housed inside a truck.
updated 10/26/2006 12:16:13 PM ET 2006-10-26T16:16:13

Mr. Smith, as he wants to be known, is a very private man. He wouldn’t give his real name, he wouldn’t say how old he was and he ducked behind a reporter when a photographer approached.

It seemed proper, then, that he should be the first resident to feed his personal papers into the tungsten steel teeth of the Shredmobile.

The point of the $60,000 mobile paper shredder, basically a white truck with a giant shredder inside, is to help residents in New York City’s northern suburbs avoid identity theft, Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano said at a demonstration Wednesday.

“It’s a shame that we have to worry about things like this, about people going into your garbage, but identity theft is the fastest-growing crime,” Spano said. “And most of it comes from things like pre-approved credit card offers, things that come in your mail.”

Spano said he shreds his own mail every day, “but I’m not going to take the time to sit there all day and shred my old tax documents and things, 10 years old, although I should,” he said.

Up to 100 pages in one gobble
The Shredmobile can chop through 75 to 100 pages at once and won’t hesitate to eviscerate CDs, floppy disks and even aluminum cans, although cans are not welcome.

Most shredder trucks are built for private companies, but at least one other government helps bring shredding power to the people. Just hours before Westchester’s demonstration, a shredder truck was outside a community center in the Maryvale neighborhood of Phoenix, Ariz., part of a program run through the office of Attorney General Terry Goddard.

That truck has been making the rounds since fall, spokeswoman Andrea Esquer said. “We get them free whenever we can from different companies, and we take them to community centers, senior citizen groups, whoever will have us,” she said.

She said 20 tons of paper had been shredded, including “one lady’s tax returns back to 1975.”

In Westchester County, the Shredmobile is to be available whenever the county holds Household Chemical Clean-up Days or if a municipality hosts its own Shredder Day.

Shredding satisfaction
Mr. Smith, who would say only that he is a senior citizen from Rye, had heard on the radio about the Shredmobile demonstration and came with a couple of boxes of documents and folders.

He wouldn’t say what most of it was, volunteering only that there were some Medicare papers with his Social Security number on them, “which they shouldn’t have in this day and age.”

Once the shredder started up — it was noisy because of the generator that powers it — Mr. Smith watched with satisfaction from the edge of the crowd as his papers were sliced into unrecognizable bits.

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