The Metropolitan Police Boys and Girls Clubs, neighborhood centers staffed partly by D.C. police officers, are $200,000 in debt and are considering a merger with a similar group to improve fundraising and increase efficiency, officials said.

The 68-year-old organization, with eight clubhouses in the District and a camp in Southern Maryland, is financially independent of the D.C. police department -- though officers are assigned full time to its staff.

Officials at the group say their donations have fallen off in the last two years, following a decline in charitable giving since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The group's financial situation is such that it had considered closing one or two clubhouses, D.C. police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said.

"We have to look at every available option," Ramsey said.

One option getting a lot of attention is a merger with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, a similar-sounding group with a similar mission. An arm of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the greater Washington group operates 20 clubhouses in the area, including six in the District.

The idea of merging this group and the police clubs, which have often competed for the same local donors, has been discussed since the 1970s, officials say. But Patricia G. Shannon, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, said that the police clubs approached her group a month ago to propose a merger. Since then, the idea has been considered more seriously than ever.

"We would hate to see an organization that has served the children of this city for years not be able to continue," Shannon said.

Those who support a merger say that it would allow for a consolidation of staff and for a single fundraising operation. But there are stumbling blocks: Shannon said an infusion of cash from outside might be needed to make the merger happen because her group would not be able to cover the operating losses of the police clubs.

The police clubs were established in 1934 by the superintendent of the D.C. police to prevent juvenile delinquency. They now serve 15,000 children across the city, offering academic and computer programs and sports from football to ice hockey to cheerleading.

Joy Hill, acting executive vice president of the police clubs, said that between two and five officers are assigned full time to each clubhouse, and hundreds of other officers volunteer time as coaches, tutors, or in other capacities.

Famous alumni of the police clubs include basketball Hall of Famers Dave Bing and Elgin Baylor, as well as current Houston Rockets player Moochie Norris and football player Jerry Porter of the Oakland Raiders, Hill said.

Francine Levinson, board president for the police clubs, said that merger discussions were still very preliminary. She said that, under the terms of any merger, police officers would still work at the eight clubhouses, and the clubs would not lose the "Metropolitan Police" in their names.

"One thing we will never change is our name," she said.