Richmond has more in common with Washington than being a capital city along the Interstate 95 corridor:

Last year, the District had the nation's highest murder rate, and Richmond ranked fifth. With almost a full month remaining in 1990, both cities already have broken their respective homicide records.

Richmond, with a population of about 220,000 and 98 homicides last year, had recorded 107 this year through yesterday, while the District, with about three times as many residents, had recorded 444 by yesterday, 10 over the record set in 1989.

Richmond's chief of police is Marty M. Tapscott, who was a deputy chief in the District until he left in 1985 to become chief of police in Flint, Mich., another city with a high homicide rate. Tapscott said "the driving force" behind the surge in homicides in all three places is turf battles among drug dealers that are settled routinely by the use of a gun.

Tapscott said drug dealers "think they've got to have a gun, handguns in particular. It's a bravado thing. There's an awful lot of guns out there." He noted that firearms were used in 85 of Richmond's 103 homicides.

When he was growing up in the District, Tapscott said, arguments "usually were settled with a good fist fight, or at most with a knife."

One bright spot in these otherwise gloomy statistics is that police in both cities report a decrease in the number of killings related to drugs.

In Richmond, Tapscott said a city-state effort to clean up 64 open-air drug markets may have been a factor in a slowdown in the rate: Only three homicides were recorded in November.

Gov. L. Douglas Wilder said the cooperative effort, which includes the assignment of nine troopers to assist the city, resulted in 238 arrests; confiscation of 26 weapons, 53 drug seizures, 49 arrest warrants and the closing of two of the open-air drug markets in five weeks.