Celebs and Cops Fight Back Against Paparazzi

"It's kind of a risk management tool," explained De La Torre, who said that, while no one was arrested or detained, seven citations were written for photographers who received infractions for impeding traffic.

De La Torre also denied a Los Angeles Times report that the LAPD plans to use undercover officers in restaurants and nightclubs, to catch paparazzi who break the law.

Recently, some restaurant owners have called in the cavalry when they felt their customers' privacy was being invaded. The founder of the popular Urth Caffe called sheriff's deputies after TMZ.com set up a video camera across the street from the eatery's outdoor tables on Melrose Avenue.

"The criticism is ridiculous," says TMZ.com's executive producer, Harvey Levin. "Every day, from 12 to 1, we have a live stream, and we go to various places. It's on public property ... Urth Caffe are the only ones who've complained."

Although he depends on their images to fill his popular site, Levin agrees that some paparazzi have gone too far in their pursuit of their prey.

"It's true that a lot of paparazzi have crossed the line," he said. "They've broken traffic laws and chased people. And the sheriff's department is getting serious about it. They want to make sure that when people violate those laws, they're enforced. They're just responding to complaints."

One of the photographers arrested in last week's high-speed chase of Spears has worked for celebrity Web site x17.com.

In response to a request for a comment, Brandy Navarre, x17.com's vice president, e-mailed a statement:

"It's a sticky situation when you have law enforcement officers 'cracking down' on the media, because it's a slippery slope toward infringing on journalists' First Amendment rights."

Referring to incidents involving Spears, Navarre said, "It is a unique situation. When every media outlet imaginable is hungry for photos and videos of her, the photographers do their best to get content. For good or for bad, the entire world seems to be focused on Britney Spears right now, and while it's easy for the rest of the media, and for the public, to criticize photographers in Los Angeles, it's the media and the public creating the demand for our pictures."

De La Torre and Whitmore both emphasized that they are just enforcing laws already on the books.

"This is nothing over and beyond what we normally do," said De La Torre. "Certainly, when there's a celebrity involved, they present interesting challenges for the media providing the coverage, and for law enforcement looking out for the public interest."

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