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Night to Unite (formerly National Night Out) is Aug. 4

Minnesota's Night to Unite (called National Night Out nationally) is coming Tuesday Aug. 4, and at least 33 neighborhood gatherings are planned in Hastings.

Police Chief Mike McMenomy said it's the most successful year for the event in terms of the number of parties going on.

The annual event is meant to give neighbors a chance to meet each other, strengthen the sense of community, and take a stand against crime, McMenomy said. In past years, people have started neighborhood watches after meeting each other at these events.

Members of the Hastings Police and Fire departments will split up into four teams and attend the neighborhood gatherings. They will begin making their rounds at 6 p.m. and will spend about 20 minutes at each stop.

Fire Chief Mike Schutt said firefighters will arrive at the events in fire engines, and people will get a chance to see their equipment and converse with the members of the department. Hastings Police officers will arrive in their squad cars.

Hastings City Council members will also attend events. Mayor Paul Hicks said he'll start the night at the gathering in Riverwood Park, which is the neighborhood he lives in. From there, he said he'll likely follow his brother, Sgt. Wayne Hicks, on his rounds to various events.

Mayor Hicks said attending the neighborhood parties gives him a chance to talk to people about what's going on where they live, both the good and the bad.

"Every year I learn something new about our neighborhoods," he said.

If you'd like the police and fire departments to make a stop at your neighborhood event, it's not too late to register. Call 480-2300 and ask for Sgt. Wayne Hicks or Patrol Officer Tim Connell to sign up. You can also contact the police department for more information about setting up a neighborhood watch.

In previous years, this event was known as National Night Out. In Dakota County, McMenomy said the police chief's association voted not to participate under the National Night Out name because of a controversy surrounding the salary of the group's national director.