BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Just over a week before Christmas, the busiest mailing week for the United States Postal Service has begun.

Deadlines to get packages delivered on time this holiday season are quickly approaching. Starting as early as Friday for first class letters and cards. By Saturday for priority mail and Dec. 23 for priority mail express.

With the higher demand for delivery – the post office wants to make sure your packages arrive on time and are not stolen by a holiday Grinch.

“I know last year we had some delays and some of it was due to like every business had to deal with COVID and some of our employees were out, but they’re back this year,” postal spokesperson Debra Fetterly said. “We’ve hired additional employees several hundred here in Birmingham alone.”

According to Fetterly, they laid out the holiday plan five months earlier than usual to accommodate for an increased demand in shipping.

“We like to provide outstanding customer service to our customers throughout the year, but our employees are really engaged during the holiday season,” Fetterly said.

Derek, from Birmingham, ordered a gift to his business in November that he still hasn’t seen, although it was signed for and delivered. It was not shipped through the post office.

“I doubled down, reordered the gift but this time had it sent to my house because we have a camera at our door that can actually prove if something was delivered,” he said.

Birmingham’s Postal Inspector says your best bet is to use cameras, have a neighborhood watch and report possible theft to his office and the police.

“Even with one package that goes missing, even if one goes missing that’s one too many, especially if that package happens to be ours,” Tony Robinson said. “Let us at least try to put the pieces together and hopefully at some point in time, bring these criminals to justice.”

Robinson said one of the best things you can do is attach an address to your item inside and outside of the box or envelope to help ensure that it gets delivered. He said they need theft complaints to know about any problems. If you are sending gift cards, Robinson said to keep the original receipt and make sure it is taped inside of a card so it doesn’t fall out during sorting.

If you still need to send gifts, the post office recommends mailing earlier in the day before collection times to better expedite the process and reduce the risk of theft.

You can report possible mail theft online or by calling 877-876-2455.