On Tuesday, thousands of Oakland residents will be hosting parties -- over 500 of them.
About 32,800 people are expected to attend Oakland's observances for the National Night Out, an evening dedicated to promoting crime prevention. This year, the city will host as many as 550 gatherings, the most ever in Oakland, said Felicia Verdin, community programs supervisor for the city.
The night is a national event sponsored by National Association of Town Watch. The program is meant to heighten awareness of area crime rates, strengthen neighborhood relationships and help build relationships between communities and police units.
In order to achieve this, neighborhoods hosts large block parties, Verdin said.
"It really does create a sense of community, a sense of belonging and people are happy to have that," she said.
More than 37 million people participated nationally in 2010, according to the National Night Out website. Verdin said she believes that Oakland is one of the cities in the Bay Area with the strongest response. Police Chief Anthony Batts, Mayor Jean Quan and other public officials will be visiting parties throughout the night. Verdin said the fire department will visit about 100 parties. All this is part of an effort to strengthen relationships between communities and people who serve them.
"It's a fun, socializing event," she said. "And while it is America's night out against crime, it's a fun time for people to get together. It's not really focusing on those big problems as much as it is building community."
Verdin said Oakland began participating in National Night Out in 2005, when about 25 groups hosted block parties. Since then, she said, the response has been overwhelming.
"It's pretty incredible," Verdin said. "It really speaks to the community of Oakland more than anything else."
Verdin said that through the event, she hopes to see relationships in neighborhoods strengthened. She said that there are currently more than 700 neighborhood watch groups in the Oakland area. Many of them use this event to get together and renew relationships.
"It's really important," she said. "When neighbors know each other, neighborhoods are safer."