When St. Paul residents hit the block parties Tuesday for National Night Out, the city's district councils are encouraging them to "turn the night blue" in honor of the city's men and women in blue.

For the first time, residents are asked to wear blue to their neighborhood events to show appreciation for the St. Paul Police Department.

National Night Out, which is celebrated nationwide on Tuesday, is designed to heighten crime prevention awareness and strengthen partnerships between police and the community. More than 15,110 communities nationwide and over 37 million people participated last year in National Night Out. St. Paul, which had close to 300 events with approximately 34,475 participants, was tops for its size last year, according to the National Association of Town Watch.

Minneapolis also ranked at the top in its size group last year. The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and the Hennepin County attorney's office will distribute free gun locks and provide information about responsible gun ownership at some events Tuesday.

If you live in St. Paul, visit www.stpaul.gov/police to find National Night Out events in your area. For information about National Night Out in Minneapolis, visit www.minneapolismn.gov/nno.

Nicole Norfleet