With all of the goodies you received this Christmas, there comes a lot of trash: wrapping paper scraps, gift bags, boxes and more. But disposing of those items could be an invite for thieves, police say.

The Hoover Police Department warns that leaving boxes from items such as TVs, computers, appliances and other electronics out in the open could signal what is inside your house.

When leaving these items on the curb for trash pickup, it is best to break down boxes and put them in a garbage bag inside your trash can. Also, adding surveillance cameras outside your home can help police quickly identify the culprits in case of theft.

This year, so-called "porch pirates" stole 260 million packages from doorsteps. But the after-Christmas trash pickup is prime time for thieves, so police are asking residents not to make the job of a crook any easier.

Other tips include:

1. Don't advertise your expensive gifts on social media.

2. Ensure your homes and vehicles are locked when you're away from them. Thieves look for easy targets, like an unlocked vehicle.

3. Don't announce travel plans to people who do not need to know. Sometimes a simple vacation conversation with a stranger can be much more sinister than it appears. Don't leave your spare key under rocks, pots, etc. Be careful when posting travels plans on social media until after you have returned or you are absolutely sure the audience is trustworthy.

4. Keep Christmas trees and presents away from the front windows of your home. Christmas trees near front windows of your residence tell thieves they can easily shatter a window and grab presents before making a quick getaway.

5. If you leave home for an extended amount of time, it is a good idea to have smart lighting that can be altered with a phone or tablet, so thieves have a harder time determining whether or not someone is home. Never turn the lights on and off with a set timer; you don't want to set a recognizable pattern.

6. Never invite someone to your home to complete an online purchase. This could allow a potential burglar to have a scouting trip of your home. Instead, complete these transactions at a local law enforcement agency. If the seller/buyer does not want to meet there, they are probably not legitimate or have warrants for their arrest; either way, they are not someone you want to deal with.

If you see something suspicious, police ask that you give them a call and report any unusual activity in your neighborhood.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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