The reaction across the city was swift, and a bit on the mean side.

"Bwahahahaha!" one Internet chatter howled in response to the news that D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey was the latest victim of the District's car bandits.

"I have to say, when I heard the chief's car was stolen, I chuckled," said Tania Shand, a D.C. resident who is still mourning the theft two years ago, from a street corner in Shaw, of the beloved burgundy Honda Civic hatchback she called Rosie.

"Looks like no car is safe. I guess if you're police chief, you don't think your car will be stolen," Shand said. "But guess what?"

A day after Ramsey reported that someone had taken his department-issued Ford Crown Victoria from a street near his Southwest home, other Washingtonians whose cars had been swiped had a laugh at the chief's expense.

"I laughed about it, because in my [area], cars get stolen all the time by these kiddie car thieves," said Charlene Exum, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Fort Dupont Park, where cars are often taken by joy riders so young that they sit on phone books to help them see over the steering wheel.

"I think one of them got the chief's car. Now he's fallen into the same rut as everyone else who's had their car stolen," Exum said.

Andrew Johnson, a resident of Hilltop Terrace in Southeast, said "it made me smile" when he heard that Ramsey was a crime victim. Johnson has complained to police and D.C. Council members about thieves dumping cars in his neighborhood.

"It just seems like if the chief's car was stolen, it would hit home more," he said. "It just seems to me he would take more notice of the problem."

When Sandra Seegars, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Southeast, got a call from another commissioner telling her about Ramsey's loss, she thought he was putting her on.

"We've been fighting this problem here so long. So when I heard it happened to the chief, I thought it had to be a joke. I laughed out loud," Seegars said. "The chief knows how we feel about this issue here. . . . Well, now he knows."

Oh, he knows, all right.

"If everyone gets a little chuckle at my expense, well, that's not the worst thing that can happen to me," Ramsey said.

"The strange thing is, the city is 29 percent [down] in auto theft this year," he added, referring to the trend through mid-June. "But for the 2,800 people who had their cars taken, it's very little comfort that the number's down."

Ramsey said that while he was growing up in Chicago, his parents' home was burglarized and he once was robbed by a bunch of thugs. But this is the first time since childhood that he has been a crime victim.

"I think it's good that sometimes we get the chance to see things from someone else's perspective," Ramsey said. "What if this was the only way I had to get to work? What if this car was part of my livelihood?"

Less hardened folks who have been in Ramsey's shoes offered their condolences to the chief.

"I don't find anything funny about it," said Elsie Long, who is still steamed that her car was stolen from right outside her Congress Park home six years ago. "It's a comment on how bold everyone's getting. . . . I was really, really mad when mine was stolen. . . . I think some of those little thugs stole the chief's car. They love those Crown Victorias."

Not seeing his car in its usual parking spot gave Ramsey the sinking feeling that Long remembers.

"It gives you that empty feeling, when you go out to your car to go somewhere and it's just not there," Ramsey said.

Shand remembers it, too: "There's no fun in having a key in your hand and no car to put it in when you've got to go to work."

As Ramsey got a replacement car, D.C. police officers continued searching for the missing Crown Victoria, scanning the empty lots, alleys and streets known as dumping grounds for stolen vehicles.

Just about every officer in the city knew the plate number by heart: AL 6072.

Staff writer Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this report.

Chief Ramsey doesn't mind "if everyone gets a little chuckle."