The feeling of security has been shattered in Santa Monica, the city known for its high-profile trials but not for its murders.
Last year, there was only one homicide in the city. In the last week alone, there have been three.
In one, a German tourist was killed during a robbery.
The others appear to be gang-related, Police Chief James T. Butts said Monday. "We consider the situation to be very serious. We want to stop this series of retaliatory shooting," he said.
Santa Monica last had a double-digit homicide total in 1991, with 13. So far this year, the city has had six.
"It's scary. I mean, I'm afraid to sleep at night now," resident Vivian Lockhorst said. "Last night I couldn't get any sleep. I was wondering whether the next shot was going to be fired and it was going to hit me or my husband. It's very frightening."
Crime experts say Santa Monica, with a population of 86,500, has been lucky to escape more violent crimes, either homegrown or in the form of spillover from nearby big cities such as Los Angeles.
"There's no way any community can avoid the permeation of problems because they're not being addressed properly," said Dennis Bianchi, professor of criminal justice at San Francisco State University.
Within the time that California has built 10 prisons, only one university was constructed, he said.
"You can lock up even a greater percentage of criminals but as long as you don't address the root problem, crime is going to spill over," he said.
Santa Monica is used to being in the limelight during big trials - O.J. Simpson's civil lawsuit, the man accused of killing Ennis Cosby, and now Susan McDougal, charged with tax fraud and embezzlement. But not this.
The gang-related shootings began last week when Omar Sevilla, a Los Angeles gang member, was killed. Apparent retaliation was taken out on Juan Campos, a Santa Monica gang associate who was shot to death Saturday in a small grocery store. Two men have been arrested in his death.
A third man was shot Sunday, apparently to avenge Campos' death. Javier Cruz, who police said was believed to be affiliated with a Los Angeles gang, was in critical condition Monday.
Tourist Horst Fietze, 50, of Lobau, Germany, was killed Oct. 12. Fietze, who apparently didn't understand what the four robbers were saying to him, was shot after refusing to give up his bag. No one has been charged in his death.
Beach cities also fall victim to crimes because they attract outsiders, said W. Garrett Capune, director of the Center for Administration of Justice at the University of Southern California.
"The beach towns, by virtue of being beach towns, take a few more hits than they deserve ... (with) people coming in for the scene or activity, be they German tourists or local tramps," he said.