Walk with Jeff Mayberry along Croffut Place SE or through the Edgewood section of Northeast Washington, and he'll show you the corner hangouts and basketball haunts of his youth.

But Mayberry, 32, a D.C. homicide detective, also will point out the drug dealers, the gun smugglers and the junkies who have turned the streets he knew as a child into some of the city's toughest.

Coming from those streets and knowing their problems is a plus for Mayberry and those of his colleagues who also hail from the inner city.

But it has its disadvantages too: All too often these days, police officers are running across old acquaintances who have become either victims of violent crimes or the victimizers. The experience, they say, is saddening.

"We have these meetings every morning where someone will say, 'So-and-so got killed last night,' " said Lt. Charles E. Bailey, of the homicide unit. "And usually a detective will say, 'So-and-so? I went to school with his brother' or 'I know his parents.' "

Mayberry says a half-dozen of his old friends have been jailed on drug or murder charges. Last year, when another detective passed around a picture of an unknown woman who had been killed, Mayberry identified her as a high school classmate.

Drugs have brought wrenching changes to areas that many of the District bred officers, even the younger ones, remember as tranquil -- or at least not lethal. There were four killings last year within blocks of Mayberry's childhood home, a small apartment on Croffut Place SE, and five in the Northeast Edgewood neighborhood where he spent his teenage years.

The latest victim there was Jermaine Daniel, 15, who had been befriended by then-police chief Maurice T. Turner Jr. and who was gunned down in an argument with his best friend, police said.

"It has changed so much since the time that I lived around there," Mayberry said. "I never remember anyone getting killed. You had your disagreements, and you fought with your hands, and then you were friends a few days later.

"It's disheartening to see the way it was when I lived there and the way it is now," he said.

Mayberry, a police officer since 1982 and a homicide unit detective since 1988, has put his background to good use. For instance, he has helped other investigators persuade reluctant witnesses to talk, succeeding largely because he knows them from his younger days.

But those same old connections can be difficult, he said, especially when he goes back to Edgewood and to his old Croffut Place neighborhood off Minnesota Avenue SE to visit friends and family.

"You'll see people you know, and when they see you in the police car, if they're not doing right, they'll walk away," he said. "You know right away the difference in people who are doing wrong and the people who aren't involved in anything."

Sometimes, he said, he runs into old acquaintances who don't know what he does for a living. "I'll ask them how they're doing, and they'll tell me about brushes with the law they've had -- before they find out I'm a policeman," he said. "Then we get off that subject and talk about, 'Have you seen this guy lately?' "

But that line of conversation too, can be uncomfortable. While Mayberry was visiting friends in Edgewood at Christmastime, he asked about an acquaintance. The man, he was told, had been critically shot in the chest while buying drugs.

"Some people, you say, 'Well, I knew it could have happened and it did happen, and so I'm not surprised," he said. "And some people, you're just truly shocked that this person put himself in this position."

The 600 block of Edgewood Street NE, where Mayberry lived with his mother and older brother in the 1970s, is lined with well-kept row houses on one side and brick buildings of the Edgewood Terrace apartments on the other.

His family lived in the complex, many of whose apartments are now boarded up. On empty lots where he once played football, drug sales are now a common sight.

Mayberry remained in the neighborhood after graduating from McKinley High School in 1976, and landed a job hauling boxes at Pace Electronics in Silver Spring. Eventually he moved to Upper Marlboro.

He still rents videotapes and gets his hair cut in Edgewood. He said he'd like to live there too, except that he fears for the safety of his wife, Giselle, and their children, Janiece, 4, and Jeffrey Jr., 2.

Mayberry said he's found it hard to deal with the District's homicide rate, especially because most of the victims grew up in circumstances like his own.

"At first, I used to think to myself, 'This is crazy,' " Mayberry said. "I would wonder if {a homicide victim} might be someone I knew, someone who was a close friend. Because the way things are going now, no one's beyond what's happening. No one at all."

Yet he draws a clear line between himself and people from his old neighborhoods who have gone against the law. He said the choices he made separate him from those he investigates.

"It was equal opportunity for all of us," he said. "We all came out of high school together, and everybody had a decision of which way they wanted to go."