Aspen cops crackdown on paparazzi
Vail, CO Colorado
ASPEN, Colorado ” Police officers have grown so tired of chasing photo-happy paparazzi that they’re starting to crack down.
“We have reached the limits of frustration with the paparazzi,” Aspen Sgt. Bill Linn said. “If [a celebrity] can’t walk down the street unimpeded, then the photographers are going beyond the scope of what’s acceptable.”
About one dozen celebrity hunters blocked the doors at Carl’s Pharmacy on Sunday, and following a flood of complaints from residents in recent weeks, police plan to enforce a city ordinance and arrest any photographer obstructing public streets and sidewalks, Linn said.
Celebrity photographers often check in with the police department when they arrive in Aspen, Officer Chip Seamans said.
The photographers can be friendly, communicative and implore police that they’re “just doing their job,” he said.
When the stars show up, however, the paparazzi get aggressive in pursuit of the next glamour shot, Seamans said.
“It’s definitely extreme this year,” Seamans said.
A handful of complaints come from the celebrities themselves, but some every-day Aspenites are fed up, Seamans said.
“Most of the calls are from citizens that are offended by them,” Seamans said.
Likewise, some shutter-bugs have contacted the police out of fear for their safety, Seamans noted.
Tim Lankins, a 5-foot,11-inch, 240-pound construction worker, got in a shouting match when a crowd of shutter-bugs blocked his way on Dec. 18. The photographers were vying for that perfect shot of super model Heidi Klum coming out of the Amen Wardy home furnishings store.
“I could hardly get through the crowd to get across the street,” Lankins said. “And they got aggressive.”
When a photographer confronted Lankins, Lankins said he didn’t mince words.
“I told him where I was going to stuff his camera,” Lankins recalled. Police arrived on scene but no arrests were made.
And while some of the photographers are regulars in Aspen ” one man later apologized to Lankins ” others are “sharks,” he said.
“The stars come up here to relax,” Lankins said. “You didn’t see this at all five years ago and now you see them all the time.”
Linn estimated six or seven police calls about pesky paparazzi each day, adding that on Sunday there were more complaints about photographers than there were calls for accidents on the town’s busy, slippery streets.
“If they weren’t acting as aggressive and unpleasant as they seem to be, we wouldn’t have a problem,” Linn said.