Neighbors will be sharing food and good times tonight as Bay Area communities come together to celebrate National Night Out. As part of the 30th annual nationwide event, which aims build stronger and safer communities, Richmond is holding a 5 p.m. kick-off ceremony and carnival at Civic Center Plaza. There will be balloon artists, face painting, snacks, a photo booth, a Zumba dance party and performances. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, Police Chief Chris Magnus, City Council members and other Richmond leaders will then caravan through the city, visiting some of the 27 block parties that are planned.
The caravan will eventually make its way back to the plaza around 8:15 p.m., Richmond crime prevention coordinator Michelle Milam said. There will then be a community award ceremony at the plaza. She called this year a “milestone,” with a record number of neighborhoods participating, and said there has been a “burst” in the formation of new neighborhood watch groups. Milam said that in 2007, there were 12 neighborhood watch groups.
This year, there are 140. She said this year is about raising awareness about crime prevention at the neighborhood level, and that the idea is to keep people involved beyond tonight. Oakland has earned a reputation for hosting hundreds of neighborhood parties for National Night Out, which falls on the first Tuesday of August each year.
This year, there are 670 events planned in Oakland, including barbecues, ice cream socials, cookouts, and other family-friendly events, said Felicia Verdin with the city’s neighborhood services division. She said National Night Out is about talking to neighbors. “We need our neighbors to help us out in case of emergency,” she said. Mayor Jean Quan will make it to about a dozen events, along with other city officials who will fan out across the city.
They will head to parties at churches, recreation centers, senior and youth centers, and block parties in the street, according to Verdin. In addition to strengthening bonds between neighbors, the idea is to get community members to connect with police officers, Verdin said. In San Francisco, each of the 10 police districts will be hosting one or more events to strengthen police-community relations. Hundreds of other block parties are planned throughout the Bay Area. More information about events is available at http://www.natw.org.
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