Some D.C. police officers dubbed the District the "city of smoking guns" after five people were killed during a period that began early Saturday and ended early yesterday. Four of the victims were fatally shot; one was stabbed.

Several police sources speculated that all five of the slayings were drug-related. But Assistant Police Chief Isaac Fulwood Jr. cautioned that it is too early to determine motives.

"Everything's still unfolding . . . but at this point, anything is possible," Fulwood said. "We're still trying to tie down the motives, but they all appear to be drug-related."

Drug-related homicides in the District have been increasing for eight years, police and prosecutors say, and a dramatic rise has been seen in the last three years. That increase has been sharper than ever this year, they said, noting that more than 60 percent of the 166 slayings recorded this year have been drug-related, compared with about one-third of those in 1986.

Much of the increase results from drug deals gone sour or battles between rival dealers, police said. Also counted as drug-related are slayings committed by people who are on drugs, police said, but the increase in such slayings has not been as sharp.

Police have predicted that homicides in the city this year will exceed last year's 196 slayings. There have been 166 homicides so far this year, compared with 151 at this time last year, police said.

Over the weekend, three of the shootings and the one stabbing occurred in areas known as drug markets, police sources said.

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. yesterday, police responded to a complaint of gunfire at 1424 W St. NW and found an unidentified man shot to death on the sidewalk. Two hours earlier, police found a woman dead of stab wounds on a sidewalk in the Northeast section of the city. Police were holding the release of her identification yesterday until relatives could be notified.

About 2 a.m. Saturday, 43-year-old Melvin Hill of 9014 Breezewood Ter., Greenbelt, was found shot to death in the 2400 block of Ainger Place SE. At about the same time, police received a report of gunfire in the 700 block of 13th Street SE and found the body of Marlon Alexander, 17, of 60 Bryant St. NW.

The fourth fatal shooting was part of a rampage in Southeast Washington on Sunday that included the serious wounding of two other people and ended with the arrest of Ian James Blair, 23, of 105 E. Balmoral Dr., Oxon Hill. James Montgomery, 38, of 1922 Savannah St. SE died of multiple gunshot wounds Sunday. Matthew Pressley, 28, whose address was unknown, was listed yesterday in stable condition with wounds to the lower abdomen and right forearm. Edward Gray, 37, whose address was also unknown, was listed in serious condition with a chest wound at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.

Staff writer Joseph E. Bouchard contributed to this report.