Why Does Gary Indiana Smell Bad? Exploring the City’s Reputation and Safety Concerns

Gary, Indiana is a city that is often associated with high crime rates, urban decay, and an unusual odor that permeates the air. Many people ask themselves, “is Gary, Indiana safe to visit?” or “why does Indiana smell so bad?” These are valid questions and concerns because understanding the city’s reputation is essential before planning a visit. In this blog post, we will explore the reasons behind Gary’s unique scent, its history, and current conditions that contribute to its reputation as a dangerous city.

Is Gary, Indiana Safe to Visit?

Let’s start with the elephant in the room – the safety concern. Gary, Indiana, ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States in 2023, according to recent crime statistics. It is no secret that the city faces high crime rates, drug traffic, and gang violence. However, this does not mean that visitors cannot enjoy the city safely.

Most tourists visit Gary, Indiana, for its cultural attractions and historical landmarks, such as the U.S. Steel Yard, the Indiana Dunes, and the Michael Jackson Childhood Home. These attractions offer entertainment, education, and recreation that can be enjoyed safely if visitors take precautions.

Here are a few safety tips to follow when visiting Gary, Indiana:

  • Avoid walking alone, especially at night.
  • Stay in well-lit and public areas.
  • Lock your car, do not leave valuables visible, and park in safe and monitored areas.
  • Do not interact or confront suspicious persons.
  • Use common sense and trust your instincts.

By following these basic safety tips, visitors can mitigate the risks that come with visiting a high-crime area like Gary, Indiana.

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Why Does Gary Indiana Have a Bad Reputation?

Gary, Indiana’s reputation as a dangerous city is not new. This city has a long and complex history of labor disputes, economic ups and downs, and social changes that have contributed to its reputation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Gary, Indiana, was a booming industrial city with steel mills that employed tens of thousands of workers. However, as the steel industry declined in the late 1970s, the city began to struggle with a loss of jobs and economic hardship.

Today, Gary, Indiana, is facing multiple challenges, including persistent poverty, a declining population, and increasing crime rates. These challenges have contributed to a reputation that is difficult to shake off, despite efforts to revitalize the city.

What’s Gary Indiana Known For?

Gary, Indiana, is known for several things beyond being a high-crime city with an unusual odor.

One of the most famous residents of Gary, Indiana, was Michael Jackson, the King of Pop. He was raised in a modest home in the city, and his childhood home now serves as a museum, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

The city is also known for its cultural attractions, such as the Indiana Dunes National Park, Miller Beach, and the U.S. Steel Yard, home to the Gary SouthShore RailCats baseball team. These attractions offer visitors an opportunity to explore and enjoy the city’s history and natural beauty.

Why Does Indiana Smell So Bad?

One of the most notable features of Gary, Indiana, is its unique odor. The smell is often described as a mixture of sulfur, decaying garbage, and burning rubber.

The source of the smell is not entirely clear, but industrial pollution and the city’s proximity to landfills are believed to be the primary culprits. The steel industry and other heavy industries that once dominated the city’s economy also contribute to its odor.

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Many residents have complained about the smell over the years, but little has been done to control or eliminate it. The odor has become a defining characteristic of the city, and visiting Gary, Indiana, without encountering it is nearly impossible.

Is Gary, Indiana the Most Dangerous City?

Gary, Indiana, is often cited as one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, but whether it is the most dangerous is subjective and depends on how you measure it.

According to FBI crime data, Gary, Indiana, had the second-highest rate of violent crime in the country in 2020, behind Detroit, Michigan. Still, there are many other cities with high crime rates that may not receive as much attention.

It is worth noting that many cities like Gary, Indiana, face complex challenges that contribute to their crime rates. Visitors should not judge the city based solely on its crime statistics but should instead look at its cultural and historical assets.

Gary, Indiana Crime Ranking

As mentioned earlier, Gary, Indiana, has a high crime rate, with some sources ranking it as the most dangerous city in the United States.

According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, Gary, Indiana’s violent crime rate was 1,790 incidents per 100,000 people in 2020. This number is significantly higher than the national average, which was 366 incidents per 100,000 people in the same year.

Despite these sobering statistics, many residents and tourists still enjoy the city’s cultural attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities.

Why is Gary, Indiana So Abandoned?

Gary, Indiana, has a high number of abandoned buildings and lots, which is a visible sign of the city’s economic struggles. The steel industry’s decline in the late 1970s caused many people to lose their jobs, and this, combined with a declining population, has contributed to the abundance of abandoned properties in the city.

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Many of these abandoned properties have become eyesores and hazards, contributing to the city’s reputation as an unsafe and undesirable place to live or visit.

How Much of Gary Indiana is Abandoned?

The exact number of abandoned properties in Gary, Indiana, is difficult to determine, but some estimates suggest that as much as 25% of the city’s properties are vacant or abandoned.

These abandoned properties are often a significant problem for the city, as they can attract crime, vandalism, and illegal dumping. However, the city has started to invest in revitalization efforts to address this issue and attract new residents and businesses to the area.


Gary, Indiana, is a city with a complex history and reputation that is often associated with high crime rates and an unusual odor. However, the city also has many cultural attractions and outdoor recreational opportunities that make it worth a visit.

While visitors should take precautions to ensure their safety, they should also keep an open mind and explore the city’s many assets. By doing so, they may discover the beauty and history that is often hidden beneath the surface of this misunderstood city.