Four people, including a 4-year-old boy, were wounded in a drive-by shooting outside an apartment building in Southeast Washington yesterday afternoon, D.C. police said.

Several people were struck by bullets about 5 p.m. as they stood outside a brick apartment complex in the 4300 block of Third Street SE. Police said the gunfire appeared to come from a white car as it moved slowly along the street.

One of the boy's hands was hit, and he was taken to Children's Hospital. Two women and a man also were struck. Two of the victims were hospitalized; the third refused treatment for a graze wound, authorities said.

None of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, police said.

Police did not release the names of the victims because they are considered witnesses. They said detectives had few leads, no suspects and no motive for the shooting.

As police cordoned off the street, residents expressed frustration at frequent shootings and other crimes in the neighborhood of apartment complexes near Third and Atlantic streets SE.

They also complained about a lack of police presence. Several said they were upset that Dupont Circle, a tony Northwest neighborhood of shops and restaurants near downtown, recently received aid from the D.C. National Guard after a homicide. The National Guard set up floodlights on a dark stretch of R Street NW in the days after a waiter was slain during a robbery attempt last week.

"They need the National Guard out here," said Faith Allen, 47, as she fed a bottle to her 11-month-old granddaughter on an apartment building's stoop. "If Dupont gets it, then Southeast is well deserved of it."

Yolonda Wilson, 53, said her 28-year-old daughter was shot in the foot outside the same building several weeks ago. She said she can't let her grandchildren visit her because she thinks the neighborhood is too dangerous. "We are on pins and needles," Wilson said.

The shooting comes as the District has been battling a spike in juvenile homicides. Seventeen youths have been slain on District streets this year, as compared with 12 in all of 2003.

Overall crime and homicides have dropped this year, however. Through yesterday, 128 people had been slain, a 26 percent drop from the same period last year, when 173 had been killed. The city is on track to record the fewest number of killings in nearly two decades.

In the 7th Police District, which includes the neighborhood where yesterday's shooting occurred, overall violent crime is down about 12 percent through July.

Police examine an area in the 4300 block of Third Street SE. Gunfire appeared to come from a white car, police said.