Online Christmas shopping is convenient for customers.

Unfortunately, picking up a few items can also be convenient for porch pirates, individuals willing to steal parcels and packages from your front porch when you're not looking.

But police and package delivery companies say there are ways to increase package security — and reduce the chances a thief will abscond with your cyber purchase before you even get to unwrap it.

"I think we are going to see an uptick" in package theft, said Sgt. Stephen Wells, a spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

As cyber shopping becomes more popular, he said, opportunity for thieves is also sure to increase. And opportunity and crime often go hand in hand.

Package thefts typically increase between the months of October and January.  Some package thieves follow delivery trucks and then take the packages after the delivery is made. Others are crimes of opportunity, when thieves see packages in plain view from the street.

At the U.S. Postal Service's mail and parcel sorting facility on Pegasus Drive, the packages started arriving Monday evening by the tens of thousands. By the end of the day, as many as 98,000 were expected to be processed — 20 percent more than last year — making it possibly the busiest day of 2017 at the huge center.

"All packages come through here," said Teresa Guerra-Espinoza, the manager of the facility. "Then they go to the rest of the world."

And they do go, sorted by bar code and ZIP code, to all 50 states and scores of other locations.

Jamie Butow, a digital marketer and social media instructor in Bakersfield, works most days out of her home. So sometimes friends ask her to take delivery of a package.

"I always make the offer at the holidays by posting on Facebook, but I haven't had anyone take me up on it this year," Butow said in a text message. "Last year I had two friends take me up on it."

Butow has also picked up packages for neighbors when they ask.

"With all the emails and alerts we get, we know when something has been delivered and she doesn't want it sitting out there all day," Butow said of one neighbor she's helped.

Another option when you're expecting a delivery is having packages sent to your workplace. But don't assume that's OK. Not every place of business has the ability or the willingness to deal with personal deliveries for employees.

Steps you can take, according to the KCSO, include tracking your shipment online and choosing a shipping option that requires you to sign for delivery.

Arranging to ship the package to another location for someone else to receive can take a load off your mind. This can be a friend (like Butow), a relative, trusted neighbor, a landlord or an apartment leasing office. Many local "mailbox" businesses may agree to accept shipment of your item for a small fee.

One of the easiest things to do is to simply ask the delivery service to hold the package for customer pick-up at their facility.

A more expensive option is to buy a locking bin. This should be bolted down so the bin cannot be removed.  You can then give the key code to the delivery company.  

The KCSO also suggests investing in a security camera, one with a good-quality high-definition camera that has night vision.

Surveillance can help law enforce prevent theft or capture needed images of the theft occurring and of the suspect. KCSO suggests. Place cameras in an area facing the mailbox, ideally ensuring you can see a clear physical description and maybe even a license plate.

Investing time in a Neighborhood Watch program may also be well worth the effort. Or just stay in regular contact with those who live around you.

"Be a good neighbor," the KCSO's Wells said. "Watch for vehicles and people you don't recognize.

"I have a neighbor who accepts packages for me," he said.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.

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