Careless bureaucrats can now be "ticketed" for such after-shift violations as failure to turn out the lights, forgetting to unplug coffee pots or leaving windows open when they leave for home.

Operating like air-raid wardens, members of a sort of Dawn Patrol set up by the General Services Administration make the rounds of U.S. buildings after hours (6 p.m. and beyond). Their mission: spotting energy waste.

When they find things on that should be off, "energy watch" teams write them up. They leave a copy of the ticket in the offending office. And they report said violations to the building manager too. There are no financial fines, but the tickets can be embarrassing.

GSA has taken a lot of heat for its energy conservation program here. It has included the now-famous hot water cutoff in government restrooms, and the printing of a couple of million pamphlets telling employes to dress cool in the summer and dress warmly in the winter. Some federal workers feel that GSA's approach is child-like, and that they are being treated like simple-minded kids. (The name and office telephone number of a top GSA official involved in the hot-water conservation effort has joined the grafitti in two rest rooms at the Commerce Department. And he has had calls.) Be that as it may, the GSA drive against hot water in bathrooms has resulted, officials say, in rather substantial savings in heating oil.

In one recent sweep of 26 offices by GSA's dawn patrol, inspectors netted 24 overhead lights that had been left on; five desk lamps still burning and two open windows. Other search-and unplug-missions have found empty coffee pots cooking that could have started fires.

Backers of the war on energy waste hope the presence of the patrols -- and man's fear of getting any kind of citation or ticket -- will result in a more economical ship of state.