NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – New Hanover County's Department of Social Services is enhancing safety procedures for caseworkers who respond to homes in several neighborhoods considered known for violence.
Caseworkers will not travel to the Creekwood and Houston Moore communities or parts of Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street in Wilmington without a coworker or police escort, according to Wanda Marino, Assistant Director for Social Work.
"We are looking out for them and we have their safety first and foremost," she said.
The assistant director said sending two caseworkers to a home that would normally need one should not create a delay in service. If it gets to the point, Marino said staff will ask the Board of Commissioners to approve overtime.
Caseworkers have been told not to make home visits at night, unless it is an emergency. Marino said non-emergency situations will be investigated the next day. If a nighttime visit is necessary, caseworkers will need a police officer or sheriff's deputy to accompany them.
"We always err on the side of safety," said Marino.
The new safety guidelines include keeping large bags and pocket books at the office and leaving expensive, personal cars at home. Marino said the top priority is the safety of caseworkers and the families they serve. She said the best way to do that is for staff to remain alert and aware.
"If it looks dangerous or feels dangerous, pay attention to your gut," Marino said.
The enhanced safety measures are in place for 90 days. The assistant director said they will be reassessed at the time, along with the security at these neighborhoods.
Marino said DSS works with the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, Wilmington Police Department and District Attorney's Office to keep on top of this issue.
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