HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The holiday season is here — but so are “porch pirates” who dim the holiday spirit of their neighbors.

The practice is “very common during the holiday season,” according to Sgt. Rosalind White with the Huntsville Police Department (HPD). She said the thefts are typically “crimes of opportunity” as thieves can see the packages left outside.

A News 19 viewer sent in a video of someone they do not know taking a package off of their doorstep last week. The viewer told News 19 the package contained a Christmas present for a loved one.

Thankfully, that package was from Amazon, so the item was able to be replaced by the company. However, not every item is as replaceable.

Tony Robinson is a postal investigator for the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). He agrees with Huntsville Police, saying stolen mail and package cases typically are more common around the holidays.

He urges people who have had mail or a package stolen to report it to local law enforcement, and to the USPIS, if applicable.

“Our jurisdiction is anything that travels through the U.S. Postal Service,” Robinson said. “If you are dealing with some other carriers, local law enforcement will be your first stop.”

He said mail theft carries federal charges.

“Simple mail theft can be a five year prison sentence in federal prison, and there’s also fines that can be levied, and there’s other charges that can be thrown as well depending on what they’re doing with what they stole,” Robinson continued.

You can report a USPS package or piece of mail stolen by calling 877-876-2455 or by going online. If you have an issue with a different carrier it is recommended you contact that carrier directly, and also report it to local law enforcement.

In Huntsville, you can report it to Huntsville Police by calling the non-emergency line at 256-722-7100.

The United States Postal Service offers several tips for people to avoid becoming victims of package and mail theft.

Photo credit: USPS.

One of those tips is to have your mail held at the post office if you are going out of town, so it can be held securely until you pick it up. They also recommend paying attention to tracking alerts and signing up for informed delivery.

Huntsville Police agreed, saying you shouldn’t leave packages unattended for too long.

If you have a package from any carrier and you won’t be home shortly, Sgt. White recommended having a “family member or a neighbor you trust, or a friend retrieve the package for you.”

White also suggested utilizing secure package pick-up sites. Amazon offers Amazon Hub Lockers, where you can pick up your package when it is convenient for you.

Robinson also alerted people to be careful when sending letters and other pieces of mail. He said to pay attention to posted collection times on the blue mail bins you may see on the side of the street.

He said dropping your item in one of those bins on a day it is not collected, or after the last collection of the day, leaves your item at risk for theft. He said if you need to drop off mail after collection times, do so inside a Post Office in the lobby drop box.