Paparazzi crackdown in Aspen | SummitDaily.com

Paparazzi crackdown in Aspen

CHARLES AGAR
pitkin county correspondent

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN”Aspen 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,

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police plan to enforce a city ordinance (see box below) 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, according to Aspen officer Chip Seamans. The photographers

can be friendly, communicative and implore police that they’re “just doing

their job,” he added.

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, 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.

“They get in your face,” Lankins said. 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.”

The photographers arrive in waves, work in teams, and the competition is

fierce, Lankins added.

“It has become more extreme as the weeks have progressed,” Seamans said.

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.

“They just restrict the free flow of people from place to place,” Seamans

said. “We’re going to deal with the complaints a little more aggressively.”

Strictly enforcing the obstruction ordinance will give police more tools,

Linn said.

“If they weren’t acting as aggressive and unpleasant as they seem to be, we

wouldn’t have a problem,” Linn said.

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