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June 10th, 2014 | Sterling

Getting The Scoop On Ice Cream Truck Vendors

Getting The Scoop On Ice Cream Truck Vendors | SterlingBackcheck

Los Angeles County is the latest jurisdiction to contemplate legislated background screening of ice cream truck vendors and other businesses that interact with unsupervised children, such as concession stands or corner stores. During the hot summer months, it’s not an uncommon sight for ice cream trucks to line the parking lots of local parks, pools, or other areas where children tend to spend their time. Even closer to home, children sprint to their rooms to raid their piggy banks the moment they hear “The Entertainer” as it blasts from the speakers of the truck turning down their street. With some children left unsupervised, this could pose a considerable threat to their safety if the driver has malicious intentions.

In the U.S., there’s an increasingly established background check mandate for those businesses and positions where adults have children under their direct care, including schools and daycare centers. Less discussed are those businesses that focus on children but don’t have them under their direct care, such as ice cream truck operators. But this growing requirement for background screening seems like a natural extension in a society that values its children’s safety. Similar to other professions that involve work with children or other vulnerable individuals, the majority of people employed as ice cream truck drivers are friendly and good-natured with no intent to harm children. The argument for mandated background screening is simply to manage and lessen the risk and opportunity for indiscretion.

It’s pretty easy to get into the ice cream truck business. In short, ice cream truck vendors and similar businesses apply for a license, purchase their truck and inventory, and hit the streets. For the most part, they are unregulated and unsupervised. Don Knabe, the supervisor who initiated the motion in LA County, believes that vendors who sell products to children should be denied a license if their criminal record check returns sexually-based charges such as molestation, pornography, and sexual abuse. Across the country, there is distressing evidence that his concern is not unfounded, In 2010, Michael Mulligan was charged with drug possession while on duty after a mother noticed that he was selling something other than ice cream out of his truck. Mulligan had a rap sheet littered with violent charges and convictions including assault and battery with intent to kill.

This is not the first time a proposal like this has been considered; the concept became a hotly debated topic in 2004 when Eduardo Grau, a convicted sex offender and ice cream truck driver lured a 9 year old girl into his truck and abused her. The incident resulted in New York State implementing laws requiring ice cream truck operators to undergo background checks. Several counties and municipalities from coast-to-coast have followed suit, passing similar laws to protect their communities.

Regardless of whether or not any laws are passed, organizations that employ individuals with unsupervised access to children should implement a background screening program both as a measure to protect the community they operate within and to protect their business.

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