Attendees at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday were alarmed to discover something unusual littered among the usual multicolored confetti: confidential police documents, shredded but still legible.
WPIX reports that the documents belonged to New York's Nassau County Police Department. Among the information gleaned from the shreds of paper were "social security numbers and banking information for police employees, some of whom are undercover officers." Mentions of Mitt Romney's motorcade -- probably a reference to Romney's appearance at Hofstra University for a presidential debate in October -- were also visible.
The would-be confetti was found by Ethan Finklestein, a college student and New York native, who described the discovery to WPIX:
"It landed on [a friend's] shoulder," Finkelstein told PIX11 News, "and it says 'SSN' and it's written like a social security number, and we're like, 'That's really bizarre.'
It made the Tufts University freshman concerned, so he and his friends picked up more of the confetti that had fallen around them.
"There are phone numbers, addresses, more social security numbers, license plate numbers and then we find all these incident reports from police."
One confetti strip indicates that it's from an arrest record, and other strips offer more detail. "This is really shocking," Finkelstein said. "It says, 'At 4:30 A.M. a pipe bomb was thrown at a house in the Kings Grant' area."
The documents were shredded horizontally, rather than vertically -- "one of the least secure methods," Newsday points out -- which allowed entire lines of text to be easily read.
Macy's has denied that it was the source of the confetti, stating in an interview with WPIX that its official confetti materials are punched-out pieces, rather than shreds, of colorful paper. Gawker, meanwhile, speculates that the shredded documents "could've come out of any of the countless number of office windows along the 6th Avenue parade route."
A representative for Nassau County Police told WPIX that the Department was "very concerned about this situation. We will be conducting an investigation into this matter as well as reviewing our procedures for the disposing of sensitive documents."As Newsday notes, the Department "did not address who shreds sensitive police documents, who carts them away, or the progress, if any, of the investigation so far."