The police force at Leisure World responds to some of the most unusual calls in the Washington area. One woman called security to report a spider on the wall, special patrolman Cam Salladay recalled, and he apprehended the critter.

When another woman reported that Martians had landed on the roof, director of security Richard M. Schultz showed up "because it would be real embarrassing if there really were Martians on the roof and we didn't know about it," he said.

Those are not the only ways in which this force differs from ordinary police. At night, they ride the Metrobuses paid for by Maryland taxpayers and forbid those they think appear undesirable to get off at any bus stops on Leisure World's private property.

In the morning, they forbid the residents of nearby subdivisions to use stops inside the development to board the public Metrobuses.

For that matter, the private police force of this walled, barred, ditched, chain-link-fenced and barbed-wired city will soon have the power to issue Montgomery County tickets to cars parked in spots where the private government of Leisure World doesn't want them.

That will put the Montgomery County courts in the business of trying cases brought by the governing body of a private development whose leaders' names never appear on a public ballot.

That is a logical progression for this private-enterprise shadow government, because it already reaches farther into the lives of the 5,500 residents of Leisure World than any ordinary American government has ever been allowed to do.Illegal Residents

Recently, for example, Robert Sullivan was grappling with two big problems. Sullivan is, in effect, the city manager of Leisure World, one of the fastest-growing towns in the Washington area, with a population expected to top 9,500 within a decade.

The first problem was a man in his thirties who had moved back in with his parents after one too many life reversals.

The other was a woman in her forties who had moved in to help her mother after her father had died.

Both were illegal residents. Both had committed the infraction of staying at Leisure World for more than 90 consecutive days while under the age of 50. That is against the rules of this private government of a community that wishes to limit itself to people of retirement age. And that private government has formidable enforcement powers.

Although there is no reason to think the problem will not be worked out amicably, if the new widow insists on wanting to live with her daughter, or the parents with their troubled son, the government of Leisure World can legally declare them in violation of specially written Montgomery County zoning laws plus the covenants in their deeds and force them out of their homes.

"We spend a lot of money on lawyers," said general manager Sullivan, "because we're enforcing our own laws."

Leisure World is one of the largest private-enterprise shadow governments in the region, spending $20 million a year and governing more people than the majority of municipalities in the United States. It is also one of the oldest, being a contemporary of those found in Columbia and Reston. It is one of the most evolved, with the larger community behaving somewhat like a county, and individual developments within the project acting like cities. It is instructive in the striking amount of control it exercises over people's lives.

Leisure World is indicative not only of what Americans will accept, but also of what they apparently want. The high-rises there are the best-selling condominium community in the Washington area.

"Older people are natural and easy targets for muggings. Leisure World gives us a feeling of well-being. We're not reluctant to go for a walk at 11 o'clock before going to bed if we feel like it," said Maynard H. Whitney, 71, a retired Internal Revenue Service official whose apartment overlooks Fairway One on the golf course. "People ask, 'Don't you miss children?' and the answer is no, because somebody's grandchildren are here every weekend."

"We've got the greenest grass in the world. Great esprit de corps. We have a saying: 'If heaven is any nicer than this, it must be one hell of a place,' " added Albert J. Riendeau, 69, formerly of the old office of education of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

Bases of Controls

However, Leisure World is no isolated case. "If you want a new home in the suburbs, it is increasingly difficult to get one that doesn't come with a homeowners association," said Douglas Kleine, director of research for the Community Associations Institute, a group of private-enterprise shadow governments that also includes condominium, co-op and town house associations and planned urban developments. There are between 2,000 and 3,000 of these in the Washington area alone, and 110,000 nationwide, according to the institute.

The powers of these shadow governments theoretically are derived from voluntary association -- a family chooses to buy a house that comes with an association attached. However, if a development has a community association, membership in it is mandatory. As the supply of houses free of shadow governments diminishes, so does a family's freedom to avoid them.

What's more, shadow governments are gaining strength in the very suburbs that were originally designed to offer a person his home as his castle. Nonetheless, as a result of covenants carefully embedded in the deeds, their accompanying shadow governments have acquired the power to control what color a family paints its front door.

Pam Stutz works full time creating shadow governments for Hazel/Peterson Cos., one of the largest developers in Northern Virginia. The seven shadow governments she has had a hand in creating will ultimately rule more than 12,000 families. In addition, a dozen consultants in the area are making a living doing the same thing, according to E.F. Hufstedler of H&H Consulting Co. in Oakton, who is one of them.

What these private-enterprise shadow governments have in common that makes them governments, according to urban experts, are:Mandatory membership: A purchaser of a unit in the development has no choice but to become a member of the community association. The ability to tax; The fees assessed are mandatory, making them indistinguishable from a tax. The ability to regulate behavior: Not only can these governments tell a resident where he or she may walk a pet, they also can tell him how many pets he may have, and how much they may weigh. Self-governance: Residents make rules and enforce those rules against themselves. Commune-ism: Swimming pools, for example, may be held in common, and the association provides for their care and upkeep.Power Over Property

Perhaps one of the most potent powers, according to Kleine, is that "your peers, the community association, have the power to lien your property. They have the power to take your house away from you. They also have the power to go into small claims court and have the sheriff go after the TV set. And they have the power, usually, to suspend certain privileges, or rights, depending on your definition, including the right to vote. It's like the old poll tax. If you didn't pay your tax, you can't vote."

The U.S. history of such homeowners associations goes to the 1820s. But in the modern era, said Kleine, these private-enterprise shadow governments took off because developers wanted to endow their investments with city-like powers and amenities. Knowing that then-rural county governments could be decades away from providing public tennis courts, for example, the developer might build some to be held in common by the homeowners, and run by the homeowners association. Similarly, "they had to transfer all those things in city ordinances that say you can't raise chickens and pigs in Cleveland Park, and put those out in a suburban context through covenants," said Kleine.

The newer the suburban development, the more prevelant the behavior control, said Kleine.

"If you go back and look at West Springfield, or areas inside the Beltway where the suburbs were {built} in the '40s and '50s, there are dog kennels and chain-link fences and four or five trucks, two of which are up on blocks."

But not in new places with shadow governments, Kliene said.

"People want to be protected from the class below them. There's very much an anti-blue-collar bias in all the truck restrictions, and how many dogs, and fences. That's the first restriction people put in -- no chain-link fences at all. You might be able to put a little split rail. Two rails high. But the front yards are supposed to remain this Victorian green pasture that you can afford not to put cows on.

"People may not like the association," Kleine said with a sigh, "but the community looks better, and there's a swimming pool somebody else has to worry about. There are restrictions as to what color you can paint your house and how you can make additions to your property and where you can put your trailers.

"But they like that."