If you have been around for a few years, you know about the more familiar scams. The panhandler who wants to "borrow" money because his gas tank has been siphoned dry by teenagers. The thief who anonymously sends you two tickets to the theater and then knows precisely when he will have three quiet hours in which to burglarize your house. The carnival pitchman who warns the crowd to beware of pickpockets -- knowing that each chump will immediately pat the pocket in which he keeps his money, thereby making things easy for the pitchman's confederates.

We begin today's column with a story that may also take an unexpected turn.

Rachel Scesco was leaving her Labor Department office at 601 D St. NW when she noticed a young man had parked his car at a red meter and was walking away without putting a coin into the meter.

"That's a red meter, young man," Mrs. Scesco said. "You'll get a ticket if you don't put a coin in it. They hand out tickets along here by the dozens."

"I know," the man said."But I don't have any change."

"No problem," said Mrs. Scesco. She walked over to the meter and put a quarter into it.

"What's your name and room number?" the young man asked.

Mrs. Scesco told him. I wouldn't have , but Mrs. Scesco told him.

What happened thereafter served her right. The next day she found a beautiful bouquet of flowers on her desk.

David Patterson, join Mrs. Scesco in taking a bow. You two are the king of people who make Washington "Our Town." THE DRUG SCENE

Wtop interviewed the mother of the late Bruce Griffith, and on Wednesday aired a tape of her comments about police attempts to disperse the drug dealers who congregate near 14th and U streets NW.

She said that the police might as well stop harassing the dealers because if they're forced to move, they'll just make some other street corner their headquarters. They're not going to stop selling dope, so what's to be gained by harassing them and forcing them to move?

In a practical sense, she's right. If the police arrested every person who buys or sells drugs around 14th and U, other peddlers and other customers would probably congregate at another point on the next day. The drug traffic would continue as before.

But even so, does this mean that if police cannot eradicate a criminal activity they should stop trying, or that they should stop doing whatever can legally be done to minimize the criminal activity? Of course not.

If it does no good to move the drug traffic from one place to another and yet we can't permit it to take root openly, what should we do about it?

Anybody who has a workable plan to put forward could save thousands of young men and women from ruining their lives.

The suggestion that usually comes to mind is "education," but our attempts to warn potential victims about drugs have fallen flat. The more we preach and "educate," the more drug users there are.

If we could find a way to reach these people and open their eyes to what drugs are doing to them, they might have a chance to make something worthwhile of their lives. But they're on a different wavelength. They just don't hear us.

Some who do not use drugs are also on different wavelengths. Consider those who accuse the police of having "prejudged Griffith and executed him."

Griffith's disrespect for the law was a way of life, not an occasional or accidential thing. After Officer Arthur Snyder was killed and Griffith knew he was being sought, he boasted that he would never be taken alive. During the manhunt, police urged Griffith to give himself up, and he is said to have considered doing it.But in the end, he chose not to.

When police finally caught up with him, Griffith fired the first shots. He had three chances to surrender, but scorned them. What would critics of the police expect them to do -- die first, to prove that Griffith really meant to harm them?

Griffith could have given himself up to four TV stations or two dozen radio stations (some of them black operated). He could have surrendered to The Washington Post or Star. Or to the United States Attorney, the United States Marshal or Mayor Barry.

Instead, Griffith chose a gunfight although he knew that the police would return his fire. So: was he "executed? or did he choose to commit suicide?" CONSUMER TIP

Larry Lujack, disc jocket on WLS in Chicago, has this advice for people who buy used cars.

"The first thing to do is check the radio pushbuttons. If they're all set on rock-and-roll stations, that means the car's transmission is shot."