City Eyes Permits for Ice Cream Operators; Truck Vendors Selling Treats to Children Would Need License, Councilman Says

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

A Jacksonville councilman wants the city to screen the backgrounds of ice cream truck operators to keep children safe.

"I really think that [in the case of] someone who would be driving continuously around a neighborhood and dealing with children, you don't want someone with a criminal record," Councilman Don Redman said. "You want someone with reasonably good character."

Redman introduced a bill last week to require any ice cream truck operator working in Duval County - including the Beaches or Baldwin - to have a permit issued by Jacksonville's Office of Public Parking. People working without one could face a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

The bill bars any registered sex offender or predator, as well as people the state considers habitual traffic offenders.

Operators couldn't have convictions in the past three years for driving under the influence or reckless driving, and would also have to pass a background check normally used for cab drivers. That bars people who have been convicted of a range of charges including murder, assault, kidnapping, rape, some drug crimes and burglary. People with four convictions ever for DUI or reckless driving would also be barred.

Setting standards makes sense, said Dennis Nelson, who operates a truck largely in the Riverside and Avondale areas.

"You're dealing with America's children out there. You want some safe drivers and you want sober drivers," Nelson said. "...You don't want to have sexual offenders."

Nelson said he knows trucks like his are magnets for children, and checking who runs them is a reasonable step.

In 2010, a Jacksonville man, Nelson Alfonso, was convicted of a set of child molestations that included some carried out inside an ice cream truck he drove through the city's Westside. …