IF YOU AREN'T AMONG the legions said to be regular viewers of the "Phil Donahue Show," you may have missed the comments made this week by Sen. Barry Goldwater about crime in this city -- and how he gets to work at night if and when duty calls. Invoking the spirit of '69 -- when a certain president repeatedly referred to Washington as the "crime capital," Mr. Goldwater told Mr. Donahue:

"I don't go out at night in Washington by myself. If I have to go to work, I call the cops and say, 'Hey, take me to work.'"

Now, nobody around here should belittle the dangers of life in any city, but the senator's remarks could stand just a little revision and extension. First, the police note that they're not running any escort service for senators, even when the duty calling is the Senate sergeant-at-arms. The Capitol Police say they couldn't handle that kind of business even if they were supposed to, because they don't have enough cars. And the sergeant-at-arms office says that only in a rare instance -- say, the absence of a "live quorum" to vote on an issue -- might it send a Senate car to bring a member in from home.

But getting back to crime, Washington just isn't what it used to be on the FBI charts. In the crime rate rankings of cities with populations between 500,000 and 1 million, Washington is down there in tenth place, which is a notable improvement over its 1-2-3 rankings in 1979, 1970 and 1971. And, if Sen. Goldwater is interested in protection on the job, he may be interested in knowing that ever since 1973 and through the first half of this year, the FBI list has shown Washington below lots of cities, including one that is ranking No. 2 so far this year -- Phoenix.