Collaborative effort leads to arrest

Chris Dunham, PDT Sports Writer

December 20, 2012

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

A concentrated collaborative effort by members of the Portsmouth Police Department and the Portsmouth Fire Department has resulted in a quick arrest and recovery of stolen merchandise.

Charles E. Martin, 38, of 509 Bloom St., Portsmouth, has been charged with burglary and on a warrant for failure to appear.

“He has been going around offering his services as a handy man in hilltop neighborhoods,” Portsmouth Police Chief Rob Ware said. “He has been doing this for some time, because officer (Steve) Timberlake had contact with him over the summer. So we know he has been out there. We’ve had some break-ins up there.”

Ware said his office received a report from an elderly woman in the 2000 block of 27th Street around 2 p.m. Wednesday.

“A gentleman had entered a home and taken a purse from the living room,” Ware said.

Ware said he happened to be out and responded to that area.

“I stopped a guy matching the description at Kinney’s Lane and Old Coles Boulevard,” Ware said. “As it turns out, he had the victim’s cellphone in his coat pocket. So when we took him back up there she identified him. The day before he had knocked on her door and gave her a business card and offered to do some handy work for her.”

Ware said while he and others were canvassing the neighborhood looking for the purse, several other residents told him Martin had been at their houses and that they had refused to answer the door. Ware said one man told him that he had actually paid Martin to do some work for him.

“We believe that this was a way for him to target victims,” Ware said. “I spent some time walking the neighborhood, checking garbage cans and alleys on the streets between where it occurred and where I found him, and couldn’t find it (purse).”

Ware said he called Portsmouth Fire Chief Bill Raison, and Raison sent several firefighters up to help officers search for the missing purse.

“One of the firefighters found the purse up behind the retaining wall on Coles Boulevard,” Ware said.

Ware said, at the time there was a major concern by the victim that a family heirloom was in the purse, but Ware said the woman found the item later.

Ware said there are several things people need to be aware of to keep from becoming victims.

“Don’t be too trusting of anyone who comes to your door soliciting work,” Ware said. “Keep your doors locked. Any time you have somebody come to your door, you need to size up the situation and decide if you really want to answer the door for this person or not.”

Ware praised the effort of his officers and the firemen.

“My hat is off to those policemen and firemen who took that extra step to go out, knowing that at that point and time, that’s the most important interaction that lady is going to have with the Police Department,” Ware said. “Her problem was at the top of the list at that moment in time, and we were able to take an extra step and apply that service that got everything back.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at