PALM DESERT, Calif. - The familiar music of the ice cream truck now sounds like a warning for some parents. The concern comes after officers arrested 40-year-old Israel Ayala in Coachella on Monday. Ayala faces charges for exposing himself to children twice in the last week while serving out of an ice cream truck.
The situation drew many questions about the screening process for ice cream truck drivers. Bob and Beth Smith own "The Cone Zone," a fleet of trucks that serve up shaved ice with a full wheel of flavors. It's a fun work place for them but not without first getting a long list of licenses, permits and certifications. "It's quite extensive," said Bob Smith. "We have to submit plans, they have to be checked, then they do a physical check of the actual food truck."
Perhaps more valuable than the stickers on the wall is "The Cone Zone's" seven year reputation for serving a community full of children without any problems. "We know kids," said Beth Smith. "We attract a lot of children, and we're safe around their kids, so that's important to us."
Especially now after Ayala was arrested. For parents like Keegan McMonagle, it's tough to see something like this change his thoughts about what should be a safe activity. "It's just kind of weird that something as a kid, that you used to go through, and your parents didn't have to worry about," said McMonagle. "Then having someone expose themselves to your kids is a scary thought."
It's something cities in the Coachella Valley try to avoid with the help of Desert Live Scan. Most require a fingerprint scan from anyone hoping to get a permit to operate a push cart or ice cream truck legally. "In our business, we see all the cities pretty much have the vendors have a background check, through the Department of Justice," said owner Dave Welty.
But, even a submission to the state, can't catch everything. "If you had a felony in Arizona, the DOJ would not see that, because it's California only," said Welty. "If you were to have an FBI check, it would be federal, it would pick up something in Arizona, Nevada or somewhere other than California."
For McMonagle, it's just part of knowing the ropes in order to keep his kids safe. "As a parent you have to be more cautious, and vigilant in watching over your children,as you thought you would in the past," said McMonagle.
Mr. Ayala's out on $2,500 bail, but he wont' be serving ice cream again anytime soon. The city of Coachella suspended his business license until further notice.