OAKLAND -- A grandmother walking home from the store, slain by a stray bullet from a nearby gunbattle. Six students and a staff member gunned down at Oikos University in East Oakland, allegedly by a disgruntled former student. Two best friends from childhood, girls ages 15 and 16, shot and left to die on the street.
Finally, a shooting during the weekend that claimed the life of a 15-year-old girl at an Oakland housing complex where another teen died in July, bringing the number of people killed in the city in 2012 to 131.
That's the highest number of homicides in Oakland since 2006, when 148 were slain. In 2011, 110 people were killed.
"This is just insane," said West Oakland resident Joe Tuman, a San Francisco State communications studies professor who ran for mayor in 2010. "We are kidding ourselves if we think we have public safety now. We don't."
Oakland was not the only big Bay Area city to see a rise in homicides. In San Jose there were 46 slayings -- a 20-year high -- compared with 40 in 2011 and 20 killings in 2010. In San Francisco there were 68 in 2012, and 50 in 2011.
Richmond, however, has seen its homicides drop from 45 three years ago to 18 this year, a change credited to stepped-up enforcement and community efforts.
In Oakland, police Lt. Drennon Lindsey said police have seen some disturbing trends in the past year, including what appears to be more planning in gang killings. And, police say, killers
"It looks like they have better tactics and come better prepared, like they were practicing," Lindsey said.
Also, the use of the drug Ecstasy by suspects is more prevalent, especially a purer form of the drug known as Molly. Lindsey said suspects mix it with marijuana and alcohol and "think they're invincible."
Meanwhile residents "are living like prisoners in their own homes," afraid to help police investigate. "People need to come forward and help us solve these cases. If we can't make an arrest it perpetuates the cycle of violence," Lindsey said. "Suspects feel they own the streets because no one is going to tell on them."
City officials recently hired William Bratton, a former police chief in Los Angeles, New York and Boston, as a consultant, to help curb violence. In L.A., Bratton reduced killings by 41 percent between 2002 and 2009. His tenure in New York City from 1994-96 coincided with double-digit crime drops.
Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan also announced a return to neighborhood policing, with the city divided into five zones, rather than the current two, with a captain in charge of each.
"It's no secret that Oakland has had a tough year in crime," said Mayor Jean Quan. "And the crime in this city is too high. We know that it affects everyone."
Violent crime in the city was up 23 percent in 2012. Lesser crimes dropped by 8 percent, but the overall crime rate rose 17 percent over the previous year.
Police don't have motives in about 40 percent of the 2012 Oakland killings. But spikes in domestic violence (from seven to 11), retaliation and revenge arguments (from eight to 17) and personal disputes (from nine to 18) have contributed to the increase in killings. Those numbers account for about 35 percent of the killings. The other 25 percent were linked to drugs or gangs or both.
More than two-thirds of Oakland's killings happened on streets or sidewalks -- 29 of them during daylight hours, up from 24 the year before.
Ramona Rochelle Foreman, 48, was walking on International Boulevard from a discount store about 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 with her sister when a bullet from a gunbattle on the other side of the street killed her.
Guns were used in 108 of the slayings. Beatings were the next highest cause of death at four and there was a mix of stabbings and strangulations, and in one case a car was the deadly weapon.
The city also saw the largest mass murder in its 160-year history. In the April 2 incident at Oikos University, police say a disgruntled former student who felt disrespected by school administrators fatally shot seven people and wounded three others.
The picture in the suburbs tells a different story.
"There is a false sense of security in the suburbs," said Amy Rickard, a pastor and activist who works with grieving families. "People often think that if it's not in their town they are immune to crime. More and more serious crimes are coming into places like Danville and San Ramon. Most of it has nothing to do with where you live. It has everything to do with the fact that we have lost touch with our humanity."
On Sept. 4, California Highway Patrol Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was involved with a traffic stop on Interstate 680 near Alamo when Christopher Lacy, 36, fatally shot the patrolman before being killed by another CHP officer.
Police say a husband and wife's alleged West Coast crime spree culminated with the brutal Oct. 5 stabbing of retired Hercules schoolteacher Susie Ko, 55, at her home. Her car was stolen and the couple were later arrested in Washington.
Barbara Latiolais, 58, was strangled Oct. 17 in her Castro Valley home and police later charged two teens, including one distantly related to the woman's boyfriend. Firefighters found her body while putting out a fire authorities say the teens started to cover up the slaying.
In Oakland, police say they have a pretty good idea in more than 80 percent of the killings about who is responsible but not enough evidence to make an arrest.
Oakland police solved about 30 percent of homicide cases in 2012, which is low compared with past years.
Some believe that having fewer police officers on the streets doesn't help. Experts say Oakland needs at least 900 police officers to quell the violence -- a far reach from the 616 on the force.
Paul Scudder, funeral director at Colonial Chapel in East Oakland, held services for more than a dozen homicide victims last year, including 16-year-old Bobbie Sartain, who along with her best friend, Raquel Gerstel, 15, were the victims of a double killing on Nov. 25.
Scudder said relatives tell him they're tired of the violence and that it has to stop, but that message isn't getting through to the young generation of killers. "Their mentality is this is a way of life on the streets of Oakland," Scudder said.
Staff writers Daniel Jimenez, Natalie Neysa Alund, Erin Ivie, Chris De Benedetti and Matthew Artz contributed to this story.