KCBD INVESTIGATES: Are the ice cream trucks in your neighborhood operating legally?

Updated: Jun. 20, 2019 at 10:20 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Parents and guardians speak all the time about the importance of children not talking to strangers, and never going up to their cars. During the summer though, those children are allowed to run up to the car of a stranger and purchase ice cream from them.

To be an ice cream truck driver, there is one unwritten requirement; a love for children.

“I like kids and I like being around them,” says Timothy Harr an ice cream truck driver.

Fred Akared, a driver for more than 3 years, agrees, "I like people. I do not dislike anybody. And I like children, especially.”

However, there are also 2 additional requirements, and they’re mandated by the City of Lubbock. First drivers must receive a permit for their truck through the health department.

“The only thing that you have is a cold hold, it has to keep it frozen If it’s not frozen, they don’t have anything to sell,” explains Stevan Walker, the Environmental Health Coordinator. “There’s no preparation or handling of anything. It’s all pre-packaged. So there’s no sinks or anything required on one of those units.”

The other permit comes from the Lubbock Police Department.

“They give you a criminal background check and make sure that you’re safe around kids,” Harr says.

Once the background check is completed and fingerprints are taken, the application is reviewed by LPD’s records department.

Tiffany Taylor with LPD says. “If it meets the requirements, then it’s signed off, and they actually have a permit to operate that ice cream truck within the city limits.... It’ll have a picture of the driver of the applicant, it will also have their fingerprint on their physical description, and some other personal information. So if you are a parent, and you and your child are going up to an ice cream truck, and you see the food permit, but you’re not seeing this actual one, then please give us a call.”

Although, just because these permits are required, it does not mean that everyone gets them.

“Ask the vendor; ask them: ‘where’s your permit? Do you have a current permit from the Lubbock police department?’” says Taylor.

The KCBD Investigates team questioned drivers about their permits requirements, some who didn’t have the necessary documents.

“The City of Lubbock police department, you’re supposed to have a permit by them. Do you have that on you?" asked Sydney Kessler, a KCBD Investigative reporter.

“No, I don’t have it on me," replied driver Akared.

Sydney then asked Akared if the drivers were supposed to carry the permits on them.

Akared responded, “You’re going to have to talk to the boss on that.”

LPD says that the permit with the police department is something that has to be done on an individual basis, and cannot be done through a company. So it is the responsibility of the driver, not a superior.

“If they can’t provide you with something that shows proof that they have a permit, with the picture, it’s a four by 10 card that should be displayed," explains Taylor. "And if you’re not seeing that, and they can’t provide that, definitely get some information from that truck and give it to us.”

Both permits, including the one from the Health Department, need to be able to be seen by the public.

Walker says, “Basically, ordinance says it has to be posted where people can see it. So if you can walk up to the truck and see it then that would be legal for where it’s at. If not, then we talk to them and have them display that where it can be seen.”

Lubbock Police say it’s also important for parents or guardians to go with children when they get their ice cream, just to make sure everything is up to standards.

“In this day and age you, you have to be careful and you just can’t, you know, assume that something’s going to be safe, says Taylor. "We might not find out about it until we have a concerned citizen that brings it to our attention. And that is why it’s so important for our community to help us out and to be the eyes and ears for us so that if there is an issue, then we’re able to address it.”

If police, or the health department finds a driver who does not have the correct permits, a ticket can be issued.

Usually though, a truck violating these permit rules is only caught by everyday people.

So if you see a truck that is missing a permit, just ask. They should have both, and if they don’t, call LPD’s non-emergency line at 806-775-2865 to report it.

Drivers should be aware both permits need to be re-registered every yer.

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