Odessa Ice Cream Vendors Accused of 'Suspicious' After-Hours Activity

Odessa Ice Cream Vendors Accused of 'Suspicious' After-Hours Activity

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - A different kind of summer fix?

Odessa residents have claimed local ice cream truck vendors are moonlighting as drug dealers, prompting police to take action.

"As a result of complaints from concerned citizens, the Odessa Police Department Patrol Division has recently been conducting compliance checks among ice cream trucks," said police spokesman Cpl. Steve LeSueur. 

He was unable to discuss details of the complaints, due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, and only said officials had received "numerous" tips involving local ice cream trucks. 

The last ice cream vendor arrested in Odessa was Ralph Romo, police confirmed, a sex offender charged with violating registration requirements and photographing minors in April.

According to Muskingum Avenue residents, vendors still circling the streets "make nighttime stops several times a week" between the hours of 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. Witnesses did not report having evidence of drug-related activity.

However, an Odessa city ordinance prohibits all mobile food vendors from operating within city limits from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. Violators could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, LeSueur said.

"They can't make stops, they can't make sales and they can't drive around at night," he explained. "There are many rules they need to follow. We're looking at everything in our compliance checks."

Ice cream truck vendors working near Muskingum and 29th Street on Tuesday afternoon declined to speak with NewsWest 9.

"We just don't want people to think all ice cream trucks are [involved in criminal activity]," said Cassie Smith, whose family owns "Tasty Treats," a newcomer to Odessa's mobile ice cream market. "We just started, barely a month ago, and we really want to grow this company the right way, with the right people. We have two trucks right now. One day, we want [to own and operate] ten."

Smith said Tasty Treats drivers are required to undergo background checks and return their vehicles before nightfall. However, "everybody knows what's going on" with other ice cream truck drivers in Odessa, she added.

"I definitely wouldn't want my own children getting ice cream from them," said Smith.