LIKE A TUNE from anybody's old campaign record album--with Incumbent singing the lead and a group called The Challengers responding in an irreverent chorus--you can hear the strains of the 1982 Overture, in which Mayor Barry declares war on crime and his opponents wonder aloud why he didn't know there was a war on until now. Forgotten in the din, of course, is the fact that they themselves weren't heard mobilizing anyone back in the pre-campaign era, either; the consensus among leaders in the District Building then was that the police department was serving this city as well as any local agency, and that there was no quick-fix solution to crime problems.

It is worth remembering that when Congress has suggested to the mayor and council in the past that there should be more police officers included in the budget requests then approved by the council as well as the mayor, the response from both branches of the city government has been to defend their agreed- upon strength of the force--and properly so, both as a matter of home rule and local policy. But now the politician/revisionists are noting that the frugality went too far, that the police department has been underspending its budget and therein--presumably --is the reason for any crime still lurking.

But there is crime, and there is fear--as Sandra R. Gregg reported recently in a roundup of recent robberies and slayings in Far Northeast. And there is no question that police are responding in this area by staking out frequently robbed businesse, putting more officers on foot patrol and setting up morechecks on increased drug traffic--which is perhaps the most mobile, difficult-to-eliminate cause of serious crimes in the city.

So when Mayor Barry announces that he will put 242 more police officers on the streets by May and will use more than six dozen squads armed with shotguns to stake out establishments that have been robbed frequently, perhaps the fanfare with which its is made known is evidence of campaign politicking. But if the policy is responding to a genuine public anxiety, the added impetus of campaign-year politicking can't be all bad.