A serial killer may be responsible for the slayings of three homeless men in Southern California who were each found stabbed multiple times, police said on Thursday.

The December killings, by an attacker described by police as a thin man between the ages of 18 and 25, have put the homeless population in Orange County on edge.

We believe these murders are likely committed by the same suspect and we feel he is extremely dangerous to the public, Anaheim police Chief John Welter told reporters.

The three killings all took place in the last two weeks of December, most recently on December 30, when a 57-year-old homeless man was found stabbed at the bottom of a stairwell outside a library in Yorba Linda, police said.

Two days earlier, the body of 42-year-old transient was discovered by someone on a bike trail in Anaheim, after a 53-year-old homeless man was found stabbed to death on December 20 at a shopping center in the city of Placentia, police said.

Placentia and Anaheim police began comparing notes after the first two killings, Anaheim police Sergeant Bob Dunn said.

After the third man was killed, we thought these are similar, we'd better get together, he said.

Police said they have surveillance video of the killer, who stands 5 feet 9 inches tall or less, from the shopping center slaying, and that footage shows he was waiting for the victim.

Orange County Rescue Mission workers went out in a van on Thursday to talk to the homeless about how they can protect themselves.

Jim Palmer, president of the mission, described the region's homeless as frightened for their safety due to the slayings, and said his organization was encouraging transients to stay in a shelter until the killer is caught.

He added that people don't really understand why someone would be so evil to pick on the least, lost and last of society.