'Twas the week before Christmas, and out on the steps,

A thug took our boxes and left quite a mess.

During the last few weeks, a number of UPS and FedEx packages have been swiped right off of porches in several Ocean County communities, prompting police who are handling the case to warn residents as the holidays grow closer.

Flickr User Michael Dorausch

With more people ordering gifts online instead of setting foot inside brick-and-mortar stores, packages delivered to your house while you work can be easy targets for thieves.

The bandits drive up and see a brown box on your front porch or stoop, something that entices them. What's inside? A gift? Goods they can steal or resell? The possibilities are endless.

"It's the perfect example of another crime of opportunity waiting to happen," said Toms River police chief Mike Mastronardy.

He said there have been at least three recent incidents within the township.

"There was one involving the theft of a vitamin delivery; there was also someone who took a $16 kids' toy that parents had ordered for their son," Mastronardy said. "We are working on extra patrols, and hope to stop these petty thefts."

Police departments around the state, including Toms River and Stafford, are stepping up enforcement and urging you to keep your tracking number handy from the online retailer, just in case. Also, if the shipping carrier allows you to purchase insurance on an item, that could help recover lost or stolen goods.

"Although there have only been a few minor incidents, we urge everyone to talk to their neighbors," said Stafford Township police captain Thomas Dellane. "If you're expecting a delivery, tell them to keep their eyes peeled and have the delivery driver drop the package with them, especially if you won't be around for several hours."

Bottom line: This Christmas, you shouldn't have to be Scrooged out of holiday cheer by a Grinch at your front door.