VICTIMS of violent crime and those who are injured or killed while trying to stop such a crime are often ignored by the criminal justice system. That has begun to change. Thirty-seven states now have programs to provide monetary assistance to victims of crime, and on Oct. 1, the District of Columbia joins that list. On that date, a new program will be inaugurated in this city. It will provide compensation for monetary losses of up to $25,000 to cover such things as loss of earnings and economic support, medical and funeral expenses and loss of services.

The new law is designed primarily to assist the poor, and eligibility is based on a financial means test. If your losses are covered by insurance, for example, you won't be able to collect from the city. Similarly, if you have savings, Social Security, workers' compensation or sufficient assets to get over the period of greatest stress, this program is not for you. In focusing on those most in need, however, the city council has made a wise choice when limited funds are available. Money has been appropriated for fiscal 1983 for victim compensation, and it will be supplemented by fines collected from those convicted of violent crimes.

Victims of violent crime suffer emotional trauma, humiliation, stress and mental anguish. In addition, many receive physical injuries and do not have the resources for treatment. Others lose jobs or irreplaceable assets. It is right that a society that has failed to protect a citizen provide at least some measure of assistance to innocent victims who have no other resources. Victim compensation is an idea whose time has come, and fortunately it will come to the District this week.