Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
Gary, Indiana, was once a thriving steel town on the shores of Lake Michigan with 170,000 people.
That snapshot of a thriving community is gone and replaced with a city that has lost 61% of its population and is breaking records for all the wrong reasons, including gun-related deaths.
This is the city that brought the Jackson 5 to the world and the modest childhood home of the Jackson family still stands in tribute along with other homes in an otherwise nondescript neighborhood.
This is a working-class city with a third of its residents living in poverty.
The rest are trying to get by on an average of $31,000 a year.
This might be considered part of the Chicago area by some, as Gary is right across the Illinois state line and is just 30 minutes from downtown Chicago.
You won’t find any hotels in Gary, but there are several on either side of the city line.
Gary city leadership is taking all the right steps to rebuild, revive, and restore this community with the strength of the steel that is made here, but time will tell if these efforts are going to work.
For now, I’d really think twice about visiting Gary unless you have a pressing family or personal reason to be there.
Warnings & Dangers in Gary
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
The crime rates in Gary range from concerning to terrifying. The biggest concern is the homicide rate. 48 lives were taken in 2021 just in Gary and another 40 homicides were reported in surrounding Lake County. The oddities in some crime numbers here include a violent crime rate just 21% higher than the national average but a homicide rate 12 times higher. At best, there's a medium risk here, but it's really close to high risk.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Northwest Indiana is flush with public transportation options, including nearly a dozen routes via bus or rail to get around the area and the Chicago region. You can also call a taxi or rideshare. There's a medium risk due to the dangers of waiting at public transportation stops here. Having your own car is ideal, but also comes with its own risks.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
The theft rate is one in 52 here, which isn't the lowest we've seen. The data provided by the Gary Police Department doesn't break down how many of those are pickpockets. There's a medium risk simply because we know there are a lot of guns in the wrong hands here and brazen criminals holding them.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
You face extreme weather risks in all seasons, including flooding, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, blizzards, and ice storms. There's a medium risk because of the potential, but there's nothing that won't come with plenty of warning.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The robbery rate is two and a half times the national average, so there's a medium risk here. Again, the gun violence increase in Gary and across Indiana and Illinois should make anyone ultra-protective of their belongings when visiting here. You should never fight back if confronted by a thief here. It's just not worth the risk.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
At one time the city would've been a hard target due to the industrial footprint and proximity to Chicago, but for now, it's just the percentage of criminally-minded people who live in the community that really put it at risk.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There have been many reports of food stamp fraud over the years in Gary, but there aren't any specific ones that target a tourist. You should still consider it a medium risk because there's a lot of hustling on the streets of Gary to make a quick buck.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
I would recommend that unless a woman or group of women have a reason to be here, they should find another place to visit. The sexual assault rate is the least of their worries, as it's slightly lower than the national average. That gun violence, though, is concerning and women don't want to be considered an easy target.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The water quality report from Indiana American Water shows there were no violations in 2021 and all water is safe to use. The water is hard, so if you're sensitive to the minerals in hard water, you should consider using bottled water for drinking.
Safest Places to Visit in Gary
From Lake Street and County Line Road, you can get to various activities on the southernmost shore of Lake Michigan.
The Miller Beach website is the best research tool to learn the lay of the land here.
There are five beaches, some open throughout the year and others seasonally.
Marquette Park and Nature Preserve spans five miles of the beach but also has more than 20 miles of trails for walking or bicycling.
There are some historical markers and statues along the way.
Be sure to check the wildflower guide if you’re visiting in warm months and another eye-catching feature includes the homes along the lakeshore.
There are restaurants and dining here, but this is no Boca Raton.
The stores are small, locally owned and operated, and can appear a bit sketchy.
It’s a great idea to talk with a local police officer or stop by the station when you arrive in town to ask about the safest parts of the beach area to visit, as the crime data I have access to doesn’t break it down that granularly.
During baseball season, you can catch a game at the USS SteelYard ballpark, home of the Gary SouthShore RailCats.
Placess to Avoid in Gary
There just really isn’t a safe part of Gary for someone who doesn’t know the area.
The crime rates spread across the entire city and start to get lower to the west (which is all industrial), east (which is getting into another city), and south (which is a nicer part of the region).
For those who want to visit Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5’s childhood home, you should know it’s not a museum or anything you can tour.
It will take about five minutes to stand on the exterior of the house and chat with other visitors who might be there.
It’s in a regular neighborhood, so you might run into neighbors who are welcoming or frustrated with the crowds.
Use caution when visiting here and don’t make loud noise or overstay your welcome.
Be sure to visit in the daytime.
If you’re sensitive to air pollution, you should check the air quality before visiting Gary.
The industrial footprint here can cause respiratory issues and let off a nasty smell that permeates through the city.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Gary
- When you’re visiting the beach, you’re likely to see industrial factories on either side of the beach. The more centrally located on the beach you are the less likely it will dominate the skyline. It’s just part of visiting such an industrial area.
- There’s an Ameristar Casino and hotel in East Chicago, just to the west of Gary. The Hard Rock Casino is also in Gary. There are table games, slots, a baccarat room, and plenty of restaurant choices. The casinos are always under surveillance. If you choose to visit here, you can ask a security guard to escort you to your car when you leave.
- You can always call 911 in case of an emergency, but the non-emergency number is (219)881-7471. You should store that in your phone now in case you need it during your visit.
- If you are traveling on I-94 and have an accident or witness a crime, you should call the Highway Patrol. The Gary Police Department doesn’t have any jurisdiction over highways.
- You can file a criminal report online for things like intimidation, vehicle break-ins, threats, or vandalism. This is an efficient way to report a crime without being tied up for a long time either waiting or while talking with officers.
- You’ll need a license to go fishing in Lake Michigan or local lakes and rivers. If you want to go smelt fishing, there’s a separate permit needed. You should review the non-resident fishing license options on the website for the Department of Fish & Game for Indiana so you have the right ones with the correct stamps and permits.
- There are risks with swimming or even wading in Lake Michigan. The National Weather Service has a list of beach hazards and headlines that is updated daily. You face risks like water quality issues, high waves that form rip currents, and debris in the water.
- There are toll roads in and around Gary and northern Indiana. You can calculate the toll and learn about the payment options on the IndianaTollRoad.org website. You can either pay in cash or with an EZ Pass you purchase ahead of time. If you are getting a rental car here, make sure it has an EZ Pass built in.
- Gary’s city and police department’s websites aren’t the most robust out there. There is a lot of great information about efforts to empower women and underserved communities. There is little to help a traveler decide where to visit. Your best way to get information is to interact with locals on social media pages or to reach out by telephone or email to ask specific questions.
- Do not drive around just to see “how bad it is” or “how good you have it.” Underserved communities aren’t tourist attractions and you could end up in a dangerous situation.
So... How Safe Is Gary Really?
The biggest crime concern in Gary is homicides, and there’s really no escaping the numbers.
With 48 homicides in 2021, that’s 12 times higher than the national average.
That’s also along with a drop in violent crime from the previous year.
Gary still holds the #2 spot for the city with the highest number of gun-related murders.
Gun violence is high here as well, with 183 non-lethal shootings reported, of which 21% were gang-rated.
The problem with Gary isn’t just the crime, it’s also the poverty, though some would argue those go hand in hand.
33% of the city lives in poverty.
The police and city leaders are teaming up to offer guaranteed income and crime-free housing, but it’s not an overnight fix.
Add on top of that, there are safer places to stay very close to Gary while still being able to enjoy the amenities of the region.
Gary doesn’t even have any hotels in its city limits, which, quite frankly, is for the best.
If you’re just looking for a getaway on Lake Michigan, you can choose safer locations like the North Shore of Chicago, or St. Joseph, Michigan.
How Does Gary Compare?
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- Visas - International travelers will need to go through customs where their visa and passport will be checked. Once you're cleared to enter the United States, you won't need to show the visa again until you leave. You'll use the passport for identification.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the only currency accepted here. If you're traveling with a lot of credit cards, please just take one of them with you while visiting Gary. Keep the rest in a safe place, like a hotel room safe where only you'll know the combination. Don't carry cash here.
- Weather - Gary gets about three feet of snow each winter, so even if it's not snowing while you visit there is likely to be some on the ground. Be sure to bring waterproof warm boots for winter trips. Early spring can be cool and it really doesn't warm up until mid-summer. A jacket and jeans should be good in the fall. Summer is going to have some warm days, but you'll still want sturdy shoes if you're visiting the wilderness areas or plan on doing a lot of walking.
- Airports - There is an airport in Gary, but it doesn't have commercial flights. You can get to the Chicago area airports in less than an hour.
- Travel Insurance - There are weather risks and inherent travel dangers in Gary, so travel insurance is a good idea.
Gary Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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