National Night Out is only once a year, but the goal is to bring communities together for the long haul.
In Modesto, 108 neighborhoods are planning events today, said officer Scott Nelson of the Modesto Police Department.
"They're all over town," he said, "There's 57 events on the east side of town and 51 on the west side."
Two community events are open to everyone. One is at César E. Chávez Park, at Fourth and G streets, from 4 to 7 p.m.
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Marshall Youth Center will hold a free block party for families from 5 to 9 p.m. There will be face painting, a chalk art contest and entertainment.
Last year, Modesto's National Night Out events won best in state and fourth place in the nation for a city of its size. About 250 neighborhoods participated in events throughout the city in 2009, topping other cities with 100,000 to 299,000 in population.
This is the 27th year of National Night Out. Organizers said more than 14,600 communities nationwide celebrated the event last year.
In Turlock, the Police Department has offered prizes and enlisted McGruff the Crime Dog to entice neighborhoods to sign up. From 6 to 9 p.m., police officers, firefighters and McGruff will be visiting neighborhoods they know are making a night of it.
Police encouraged neighborhoods throughout Turlock "to lock their doors, turn on outside lights and spend the evening outdoors with neighbors and police," according to the Turlock city Web site.
In conjunction with National Night Out, the Turlock Police Department is holding its fifth annual Open House celebration from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at 900 N. Palm St. Police Chief Gary Hampton and his staff will be on hand to talk about the department, crime prevention and public safety. Tours of the police facility will be available along with activities for the entire family. Hot dogs and drinks will be provided.
National Night Out, "America's Night Out Against Crime," was introduced by the National Association of Town Watch in 1984.
That first year, 400 communities in 23 states participated.
This year, all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide will be participating in the first Tuesday in August observance, except Texas, which will celebrate Oct. 5.
Bee staff writer Nan Austin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2339.