William B. Plowman
"GARY, INDIANA: CITY OF STEEL"
Located just 25 miles south of Chicago, Gary Indiana was founded in 1906 to be the new home for the United States Steel Corporation. But the boom days came to an end in the 1960s as the city suffered from growing global competition in the steel industry. Like so many urban centers reliant on industry, Gary is in a period of decline. The city's population peaked in the early 1960s at roughly 174,000 residents but has fallen to around 80,000 according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Once the city slogan read "Gary, City of the Century", but unemployment, declining population, a marked increase in violent crime, and the use and trade of narcotics eventually earned Gary the infamous moniker of "Murder Capital." While some may point an accusing finger at Gary's drug trade, Brian, sitting on the front steps of his home on a hot summer morning, says otherwise: "Crime doesn't happen because of drugs. Crime happens because of poverty." Tug-O-War takes a different approach. "Gary, Indiana, is the murder capital for good reason. In my personal opinion--and it don't mean shit---but I got one: The way to survive in this city is to be humble." Tug-O-War stresses “they ain't gonna box you ... it's gonna get to gunplay. The only way to get things done around here is with gunplay." A city born up from the swells of capitalism now seems set adrift at sea. In addition to the collapsing infrastructure and deteriorating buildings, the number of abandoned houses is sharply increasing as people leave the city. Ryan, 32, is still holding on. He has a 14-month-old boy to support and another child on the way. He was recently let go from his job in a round of layoffs and is trying to keep up with the mortgage payments on the house he purchased from his grandmother. "Some people say that's just life. Well I can't accept that. How come we don't see the Red Sea being parted?" Ryan asks me. "How come we don't see the homeless being fed? Like ... five loaves of bread turning into 5,000?"
Ryan keeps his handgun on his lap while driving through Gary, Indiana. Many in Gary carry handguns for personal protection and the city in many ways reflects America's gun culture. The city of roughly 80,000 was founded in 1906 by the U.S. Steel Corporation as the home for its new plant. But in the 1960s Gary's fortunes, so closely linked to the steel industry, took a downturn. Businesses closed and the crime rate spiraled earning Gary the infamous distinction of "Murder Capital of America."