Dallas community holds special meeting regarding sex offender concerns

DALLAS, NC (WBTV) - Members of the Summey Knoll neighborhood in Gaston County called for a special meeting with local law enforcement after growing concerns that a sex offender was living near their homes.

Deputies from the Gaston County Sheriff's Office arrested George McDowell, a registered sex offender, Wednesday.

Officials said they had received complaints from neighbors that McDowell was living in the Summey Knoll community and resided too close to a daycare.

Deputies investigated the situation and found that McDowell and another registered sex offender were living in the community.

Officials said they found that the offenders were in violation of their sex offender registry requirements because of their distance from the daycare.

"If you're a registered sex offender in the state of North Carolina you cannot live within 1,000 feet of a registered school, nursery or daycare," explained Sgt. Shane Farmer with the Gaston County Sheriff's Office.

McDowell was arrested after he told deputies he had moved out of the neighborhood, but never actually left. He is in the Gaston County Jail charged with failing to register, falsification of verification and sex offender residency violation.

Farmer is the sergeant that oversees the office's sex offender unit. He was one of several law enforcement officers to meet with Dallas residents Thursday evening.

"People had questions and needed answers and that's what we're here for," said Farmer.

The meeting lasted just over an hour and allowed for residents of Summey Knoll to ask questions about the rules and regulations concerning sex offenders.

Some neighbors asked what could be done to prevent sex offenders from living in the neighborhood, and deputies explained that in many cases it is impossible to prevent a sex offender from moving into a community based upon the conditions of their parole.

They encouraged neighbors to keep an eye out for any suspicious activity and told them to report to police.

Farmer credited the community for bringing concerns about McDowell to law enforcement.

"That's where we get a lot of our information, through complaints, curiosity, things of that nature," said Farmer.

Sierra Cygan said she wanted to attend the meeting because her 10-year-old daughter is frequently in the Summey Knoll neighborhood with extended family members. Cyan said she had read rumors on Facebook that claimed a halfway house for sex offenders was operating in the neighborhood.

"My biggest concern was the whole people saying there's gonna be a halfway house," said Cygan.

However, deputies dispelled that rumor at Thursday's meeting and told neighbors what to look out for in the future if they think suspicious activity is happening around them.

"I think it eased a lot of fear for the whole community that came out," said Cygan.

Law enforcement officials reminded the neighbors that they can check online to see if sex offenders are living in their neighborhood. They also encouraged the public to call law enforcement if they want a suspicious situation investigated.

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