Mackinac Island, the quaint tourist destination known for fudge and horse-drawn carriage rides, is the fifth most violent city in Michigan, according to new FBI crime statistics.
But don't read too much into that ranking.
"Crime stats for Mackinac Island or city are meaningless, as are any data related to vacation areas," said Kurt Metzger, a demographer and mayor of Pleasant Ridge. "Crime for the resident populations tend to be minimal."
The recently released 2016 FBI statistics show Mackinac Island had eight violent crimes, or the equivalent of about 17 crimes per 1,000 residents, putting it at No. 5 behind Detroit, Muskegon Heights, Benton Harbor and Highland Park. Flint was No. 7
The island has 479 year-round residents. But there are 15,000 to 18,000 people on the island daily from spring to fall during tourism season, Police Chief Brett Riccinto said.
Because the stats are based on the full-time resident population, Riccinto said, the data are skewed.
The chief said most of the eight violent crimes reported on the island in 2016 — two rapes and six aggravated assaults — happened during tourism season.
In 2015, Mackinac Island had two reported violent crimes, a rape and an aggravated assault. There were five violent crimes in 2014, all of them rapes.
"You don't want any (crimes) to occur, but the fact is if you go from five to six or four to six, two crimes can make the numbers jump so much, just because you have such a small base" of population, Metzger said.
The FBI specifically advises against using its data to create rankings. According to the agency's website, such comparisons "lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents."
Riccinto worked for 17 years for the Detroit Police Department before becoming chief of the island's police force four years ago.
He stressed that the vacation hot spot is safe.
"We haven't had a murder since the '60s," he said. "We do get a couple criminal sexual conduct crimes a season, but I think you're going to have that anywhere with a lot of bars and alcohol consumed."
He added: "Don't be afraid to come to the island."
Detroit Free Press