The arrival of July means it's time to look ahead to August. Police agencies around the area are urging neighborhoods to plan now for block parties and other gatherings for the 31st annual National Night Out anti-crime event on Aug. 5.

The events work on the idea that building ties within a neighborhood and with public safety personnel is a basic step in reducing crime. An estimated 15,000 communities and more than 36 million people in the United States and Canada take part each year.

  • Albany: Events are encouraged from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 5.

    "We want Albany residents to know each other, look out for each other, and report suspicious activity promptly to the Police Department," writes the police department. "This is the best way to decrease crime and help make Albany safer for everyone."

    An online registration form is available at bit.ly/1vtl66V or contact Karina Tindol at the Albany Police Department, 510-528-5755 or ktindol@albanyca.org.

  • Berkeley: The police department "welcomes all Neighborhood Watch groups, local businesses, faith-based organizations, and community groups to organize for a night of community" with police, fire and city department personnel and receive safety, disaster preparedness and crime prevention guidance.

    Registration forms, which should be submitted by July 23, are available at www.cityofberkeley.info/Police/Home/News_Room.aspx, or contact Officer Stephanie Polizziani at 510-981-5772 or spolizziani@cityofberkeley.info.

    "Additionally, this year, neighborhood groups participating in National Night Out can count that participation as one of the two required meetings to qualify for a free trash bin. See www.cityofberkeley.info/trash bin for more information."

  • El Cerrito: Police and the city's Crime Prevention Committee help host and do outreach at registered events. A form and more details are available at nixle.us/8FHT9.

  • Pinole: Events, including many being planned by city Neighborhood Watch groups, are encouraged by the Pinole police from 6 to 10 p.m.

    Individuals and neighborhoods interested in organizing an event or finding one near them can call 510-724-8950 and ask for Commander Neil Gang.

  • Richmond: The city encourages block parties and is also holding a centralized event where residents can meet their neighbors and personnel from the police and fire departments from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at 440 Civic Center Plaza.

    The schedule in Richmond includes a kickoff party at 5 p.m., performances and activities at 6 p.m. and an end party at 7:45 p.m.

    "We are looking for a few good dance groups to kick off our National Night Out celebrations," noted the department's crime prevention unit. "If you're interested email RPDCommunity@richmondpd.net."

  • San Pablo: City officials, law enforcement, and fire personnel will visit participating events.

    To join an event or register one of your own contact Ken White at 510-215-3212.

    WEST COUNTY NOTES: Singing greats Joan Baez and Maria Muldaur headline a benefit concert from 5 to 9 p.m. July 6 for Camp Winnarainbow.

    The "Sing Out at Sunset!" concert will be at the intimate and attractive setting of Coventry Grove, a residential amphitheater in Kensington and proceeds will go to scholarships to send disadvantaged children to the circus arts summer camp in Laytonville, Calif.

    Berkeley's own Wavy Gravy, founder of Camp Winnarainbow, will be master of ceremonies at the concert and a silent auction of unique rock and roll memorabilia will be offered.

    General seating tickets include a preconcert dinner catered by Assemble restaurant in Richmond, wine, and the auction.

    For tickets or more details visit www.campwinnarainbow.org or call 510-525-4304.

  • Ryan Kamakakehau Fernandez will perform Hawaiian music at a free in-store concert at 2 p.m. July 5 at Down Home Music Store, 10341 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.

  • The Kensington Community Center has an exterior addition that is both practical and attractive. Members of Girl Scout Troop 32222 created a Pollinator Garden to attract birds and bees that includes touches such as a Fairy House made of recycled materials.

  • Berkeley has been awarded $170,000 from the Lumina Foundation to assist city efforts to increase the number of residents receiving college degrees.

    Berkeley is now part of a 35-city collaborative effort "that connects participating cities with significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, flexible funding, and the ability to customize attainment plans that will best suit each community's needs and the well-being of its residents," according to the foundation. Details: www.luminafoundation.org.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.