A day after a Southeast pharmacist shot and killed a would-be robber in the Fairfax Village neighborhood, residents said they suffer from an inadequate police presence that allows criminals to operate there with little fear.

"The community supports the action that was taken by the merchant," Councilman H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7) said yesterday. "He did what he had to do."

Shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday, according to police, David Cohen, manager of the Fairfax Village Pharmacy at 3827 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, confronted a man trying to smash open his store's cash register against the floor. When the man, Dewitt Turner, 33, of 450 51st. St. SE, moved in a threatening manner toward Cohen and a cashier, the manager fired one shot. Turner was later pronounced dead at D.C. General Hospital.

The incident shocked a mostly residential community described by residents and police as generally peaceful. Area residents interviewed yesterday expressed support for David Cohen and complained that police have paid too little attention to their neighborhood.

The Cohen pharmacy has operated at the Pennsylvania Avenue location since 1945 and Dennis Logan, chairman of the Fairfax Village Neighborhood Crime Watch Committee, said, "Everyone in this area thinks very highly of the owner of that pharmacy."

"We live in a nice neighborhood," Logan said, "but I think that the hoodlums recognize that and see that it's easy prey."

Faced with a rash of burglaries the neighborhood -- home to Mayor Marion Barry and other prominent Washingtonians -- community residents met with D.C. Police Chief Maurice Turner Jr. and Deputy Chief Joyce F. Leland, commander of the 7th District, last spring and requested more patrols.

Foot and car patrols were increased in the area, but Long said that when the burglaries dropped off "we found that after two or three months . . . as we feared, {police patrols} went back to normal."

Crawford said the problem has increased in the last 30 days and that even before Wednesday's shooting, he and community leaders had contacted police officials to set up another community meeting, perhaps as soon as next week, to discuss police presence in the area.

After Wednesday's shooting, police characterized Fairfax Village as a stable, middle-class neighborhood where most homes are single-family houses. "We don't get too many calls up there. That's a quiet, residential area," said one robbery squad investigator.

But Crawford said the police department's policy of concentrating manpower in the southern part of the 7th District, where drug activity and concommitant violent crimes are more prevalent, has shortchanged the neighborhood.

"We want the same kind of {police} activity in our neighborhoods that is received in others that have higher rates of drug activity," Crawford said, "because we don't want that in our community."

In a meeting last week, Logan said Deputy Chief Leland told him that Turner had promised the district 20 additional officers beginning today and that about 20 more officers would be assigned to the 7th District in November.

Logan, a retired D.C. Fire Department deputy chief who lives on Austin Street SE, said the promise offers some hope but "in the meantime we saw some flicker of improvement but not {up to} the level of police presence we feel we deserve."

"I've been living here since 1965 and we have never received the kind of police protection we deserve. You just never see any police," he said. "There's a shortage of manpower out here."

Ellen Coyle, 38, a neighborhood resident for eight years, agreed. Recounting tales of muggings and purse snatchings in which she or acquaintances had been victimized, Coyle said: "This has been going on a long time. In a car, on foot {and} on bus, I have had problems . . . . I just want some protection. It's not only the situation with the Cohens but it's a pretty bad thing to happen all around."