From Canada's murder capital to one of the safest big cities in Canada, it's been quite a transformation for Abbotsford.
Homicide rates released Tuesday show that the Fraser Valley community has completed a remarkable turnaround, as only four large communities in Canada are now statistically safer.
"The Christmas present for the citizens of Abbotsford is a much safer city than in years past, and it's due to the Abbotsford Police Department," said pleased-as-punch Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman.
"They looked at the well-being of the community as a whole, not just the crime rate.
"We're on target for a 50-per-cent crime reduction in five years."
Abbotsford police Const. Ian MacDonald was happy to take a media call Tuesday - much happier than the calls he took in 2008 and 2009 when asked to explain why the city was Canada's murder capital.
"I've seen it all," said the 15-year APD veteran. "We had to acknowledge the problem. We did some research, and discovered that eight of the 11 murders in 2009 were gang-related."
So the APD used a two-pronged approach - educating young, impressionable, potential recruits, and making life difficult for gangsters.
"We went out into the street," said MacDonald. "We got in front of 25,000 students, and we challenged them.
"We went face to face with teens, we went face to face with parents."
In-your-face posters and videos explained that the gang lifestyle ends in death or prison, and then police put the pressure on gangsters to ship out.
"We said we're going to make Abbotsford a horrible place to try to be a gangster," said MacDonald.
"The local bars and restaurants became part of Barwatch - we figured if gangsters had nowhere to spend their money, they'd leave town."
The APD set up a Gang Suppression Unit that keeps a rotating top-25 list of the community's most dangerous gangsters.
If they haven't officially shipped out, the gangsters seem to have stopped killing. In 2011 the Abbotsford-Mission area recorded just one homicide - down from four in 2010 and 11 in 2009.
WINNIPEG TOPS LIST
For the entire decade of 2001 to 2011 only Regina, Winnipeg and Edmonton had a higher homicide rate.
For 2011 all that has changed. Now, 24 communities have a higher homicide rate, with only Sherbrooke, Que., Barrie, Ont., St. Catharines-Niagara, Ont., and Quebec City marginally safer.
The Statistics Canada survey also shows that homicide rates increased in B.C.'s two largest urban areas in 2011 - but they fall far short of the Canadian homicide capitals of Winnipeg, Halifax and Edmonton.
The Vancouver region recorded 43 homicides in 2011 -- up from 36 in 2010 - while the Victoria area had six homicides, up from five the previous year.
Those deaths put Vancouver and Victoria at Nos. 10 and 11 nationwide, respectively - but the murder rate is three times higher in Canada's 2011 homicide capital, Winnipeg, and is more than twice as high in No. 2 Halifax and No. 3 Edmonton.
Kelowna also did well in the stats, with only two 2011 homicides, putting the Okanagan city at No. 19 out of 29 communities in the survey.