Oakland residents will host 452 neighborhood parties tonight as part of National Night Out, which is being celebrated all over the Bay Area today.
It's the most parties ever held in Oakland for National Night Out, said Sandra Sanders-West, a neighborhood services coordinator for the Oakland Police Department. Mayor Ron Dellums and Police Chief Anthony Batts will officially kick off the event at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
National Night Out aims to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for local anti-crime programs, build community-police relations and send a message to criminals that neighbors are organized against crime.
Residents are encouraged to turn on their lights, lock their doors and join neighbors outdoors to show a strong community presence.
Oakland in the past has limited the number of neighborhood parties for the annual event, Sanders-West said. The cutoff was removed this year.
"We have quite a few large parties," she said. "There was a specific effort to make sure people know that when neighbors know each other, neighborhoods are safer."
City Council members and representatives from the Alameda County District Attorney's Office will join police and firefighters in visiting several block parties.
Chief Batts will make stops in areas where violence has been especially prevalent lately but where the neighbors "are more than willing to get together and be a community that is unified," Sanders-West said.
In Richmond, a party will begin at 5 p.m. in the parking lot of the Target store at 4500 Macdonald Ave. There will be food, games, police K-9 demonstrations, McGruff the Crime Dog and live performances by the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts. Three caravans of police, firefighters and city officials will visit more than 20 neighborhoods.
"It's a good opportunity for us to kick off our neighborhood awareness program," Richmond police crime prevention manager Michelle Milam said.
The evening is an opportunity for residents to improve quality of the life in their neighborhoods, she added.
"Some people live on the same street for years and don't even know each other," Milam said.
Other Bay Area National Night Out events include Dancing on the Square at Courthouse Square in downtown Redwood City and a Paint-and-Plant Party in San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood, where police and residents will paint over graffiti and plant shrubs at a vandalized wall at 2800 Alemany Blvd. The retaining wall is owned by the city and is a blank canvas for vandalism, said Sgt. Jim Miller.
"It just cries out for graffiti," he said.
For a complete list of communities officially registered with National Night Out visit http://www.nationaltownwatch.org/nno/locator.html