Protect and ‘serve:’ Ocala police buy ice cream truck

Police ice cream truck connects with kids

OCALA, Fla. – When a retired Marion County principal suggested the idea of purchasing an ice cream truck for community outreach, the Ocala police chief loved it.

So late last year, using donations entirely, he bought one — a converted Ford van with a freezer inside and a speaker outside blasting tunes.

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The chief had the van wrapped with the PD’s logo and a motto: “Protect and Serve.”

Deputy Chief Lou Biondi admitted the ice cream truck idea is “different,” but it gets results, he said.

“Who doesn’t love ice cream?” Biondi said. “It’s not like we have to do it to make an impact on the community, it’s just one of those feel-good things. And it opens up the doors for kids to talk to police officers and see us as regular people instead of the guys and girls in blue.”

When police pulled up in the ice cream truck at an apartment complex, children swarmed the truck.

“Pick any ice cream of your choice and we’ll give it to you, OK?” officers told the kids.

Mom Lowree Price watched her son Lenny lick every last bit of ice cream from his popsicle.

“It’s nice,” Price said. “It rebuilds the relationship between the public and Ocala Police Department. I think they should. I think with everything going on in the world it’s a pretty awesome idea. I think everyone should do it honestly.”

The ice cream truck goes anywhere and everywhere there are kids — schools, parks, parties, shopping centers.

The truck in all cost around $30,000, according to Biondi, but when citizens heard about the idea, they donated to pay for it.

The Palm Bay Police Department was looking to buy a food trailer last year but said it decided instead to purchase an ice cream truck after it learned about Ocala’s success.

About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for News 6 and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting.