BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ Police here claim to have one of the fastest response times in the country, and that may have been the catalyst of a hostage crisis at a Rodeo Drive jewelry store that left three dead and three injured.

''Once he saw he was surrounded, he was scared,'' police Lt. David Griffey said shortly after a man was taken into custody Monday night outside the Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry store.

Police had arrived at the store Monday morning just two minutes after they were alerted by a silent alarm and an emergency telephone call. That was one minute faster than the department's average emergency response time.

''I don't know of any agency that responds as quick as Beverly Hills,'' Griffey said. ''Sometimes we show up within seconds.''

That promptness is owed in part to the fact that the city has more police officers per capita than any other city in the country, he said.

According to bystanders, the gunman was on his way out of Van Cleef & Arpels when police arrived and he turned back into the building.

''I think it was a bungled robbery,'' said Police Chief Marvin Iannone. ''We got there too fast and he couldn't get away.''

The man, who spoke with reporters by telephone during the crisis, said he took the hostages when he saw police outside the store.

Three of the five hostages held for 13 1/2 hours Monday were killed and the other two were injured. A man and a woman were found dead inside the shop after the confrontation ended, and another hostage was fatally wounded when the gunman tried to flee and gunfire broke out.

Steven Livaditis was booked today for investigation of multiple homicide and robbery, said police Sgt. Joe Langer.