Violent unrest is on the rise in Alotau, the capital of Papua New Guinea's Milne Bay province.
Additional police are being deployed to Alotau to respond to a surge of unrest.
Police burnt 17 houses at Alotau's Kitava settlement last week while in pursuit of a gang who were allegedly behind an armed robbery hours earlier.
But in a gun fight between police and the gang, an elderly woman was killed and an officer injured.
A local journalist, Neville Togarewa, said Alotau's peaceful reputation had changed in the last two years with increased armed hold-ups and killings.
"Milne Bay province is no longer a peaceful province. We are experiencing very serious criminal cases that have not happened before," Mr Togarewa said.
Alotau used to be free of law and order problems that plagued most other PNG urban centres, the journalist said.
Piracy has increased off Milne Bay's coast, as well as other crimes associated with a build-up of high-powered weapons typically used by disciplinary forces, he said.
Mr Togarewa said many innocent people were affected by the police torching homes at the settlement.
Police burnt "seventeen houses all together, all the belongings belonging to twenty-five families or households were burnt to the ground, to ashes, and a total of 105 people affected".