Fans of block parties, ice cream socials, barbecues, potlucks, cover bands and dancing are in luck tonightóBay Area residents have a slew of parties to choose from to celebrate National Night Out.

The crime prevention event was started 28 years ago by the nonprofit National Association of Town Watch as a way to bring communities together and present a united front against criminals and drugs.

Last year, more than 37 million people participated in the event nationwide, and organizers are hoping to break that record this year.

Local cities set records of their own this year.

Oakland had 457 registered National Night Out events in 2010 and aimed to have 500 block parties this year. At last count, the city had exceeded its goal, with more than 550 registered events.

Downtown Redwood City will be party central for adults and children—with salsa dancing, arts and crafts, games and food. The festivities begin at 4 p.m. at Courthouse Square.

Richmond is celebrating with a caravan that will travel to more than 20 neighborhood block parties. The caravan kicks off with a carnival, complete with free hot dogs, hamburgers, live music and a visit from McGruff the Crime Dog.

“We wanted to emphasize what makes us better, not what divides us as a community,” organizer Michelle Milam said.

The event starts at 5 p.m. at the Target Store parking lot at 4500 Macdonald Ave.

Concord is honoring its Police Department with a celebration at Todos Santos Plaza at 6:30 p.m. featuring live music by Stung, a tribute band that plays “The Police” covers, and a free sneak peak at the city’s “ice-less” ice skating rink.

The San Francisco Police Department is hosting 10 parties throughout the city to strengthen ties between police and the community.

Mayor Ed Lee and police Chief Greg Suhr are expected to make appearances at the parties, and officers will be giving away food, T-shirts and toys, police said.

More than 100 San Jose neighborhoods participated last year and San Jose police are asking residents to come out tonight to give crime a “going-away party.”