Moving the needle in Gary has not been an easy task, but since taking office in 2020, Mayor Jerome Prince has found some uncommon success. The mayor says he is well aware of the perception of the Lake County city, including its nickname, “Scary Gary.” Prince says the key to improving the city’s perception is in his three pillars: making Gary safer, improving customer service for residents, and creating a cleaner city.
In an interview with Around INdiana reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, Prince said he knows changing decades of poor perception will not happen overnight.
“It’s important to understand that because that perception exists, that we need to acknowledge it and do everything we can to try to eliminate or at the very minimum diminish the perception that this isn’t a safe place and a good place to visit or live,” said Prince.
This summer, upwards of 100 buildings will be demolished as part of Prince’s “All In Gary” campaign, which also features community cleanups every two weeks.
Last month, Prince launched Operation Safe Zone, a 24-hour surveillance operation that feeds security video from churches and businesses directly to officers on the ground in real time.
“I’ve never really felt unsafe. You know, some may say, ‘Well, he’s delusional,’ right? I don’t think so. I travel through the city. I take my family, my wife and I ride our bicycles throughout the entire city,” Prince said.
On the business side, Gary has seen a few wins, including the opening of the $300 million Hard Rock Casino Northern Indiana in May 2021, followed by the casino’s 2,000-seat Hard Rock Live entertainment venue later that year.
Nearly two years ago, Alliance Steel cut the ribbon on its new headquarters and production facility in Gary after relocating from Illinois. The company invested $20 million in the project, which was estimated to create 130 jobs.
Earlier this year, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. (NYSE: X) began construction on a $60 million pig iron caster at its Gary Works plant, which will also create about two dozen jobs.