July 22, 2008

Paparazzi arrested near Britney Spears' home

Britney Spears

Two photographers who tried to snap shots of pop star Britney Spears were arrested Monday on suspicion of loitering. (Mark J. Terrill / AP)

Two photographers who tried to snap shots of pop star Britney Spears from a fire access road on a hillside near her Studio City home were arrested Monday afternoon on suspicion of loitering.

The men were taken into custody after someone called police about 4 p.m. Monday to report that photographers were loitering on city-owned property, which has restricted public access and is blocked by a chain-linked fence, said LAPD Sgt. Ruby Malachi.

Officers told the photographers they were on city-owned property and that they should leave, Malachi said. The photographers said they would heed the warning but when police returned about an hour later, they were still there.

"They were detained, questioned and eventually arrested before being transported to North Hollywood station, where they were released," Malachi said.

The photographers were identified Tuesday as Alexandre Passos, 35, of Canoga Park and Eduardo Ravalha, 35, of Los Angeles. They were booked on suspicion of loitering and Ravalha's silver 2005 C-20 Mercedes Benz was impounded.

Police said they were called to the same area two weeks ago because of a similar report involving the paparazzi, Malachi said. At that time, authorities noted that signs warning people to stay off the property had been removed.

The arrests Monday are part of what authorities have described as a larger crack down against aggressive photographers.

In February, the LAPD arrested four paparazzi on suspicion of reckless driving as they followed Spears on a San Fernando Valley street. Police alleged that at least one of the photographers tried to run her off the road.

That same month, in separate incidents, four paparazzi were booked on charges arising from blocking sidewalks in West Hollywood.

Spears' exploits have been a tabloid staple for years. Among the most memorable moment were photos of her driving down Pacific Coast Highway while holding her infant son in her lap, an incident that led to an inquiry by Los Angeles County child welfare officials.

That was followed by other increasingly bizarre incidents, including Spears' impromptu stop at an Encino salon to shave her head, attacking paparazzi with an umbrella, being photographed sans underwear in public, failed trips to drug rehabilitation, appearing incoherent during a photo shoot for OK! Magazine, a much-panned performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and numerous court hearings about custody of her two young sons.

The paparazzi frenzy reached a peak in January when Spears was taken to psychiatric wards at two local hospitals about a month apart, including an LAPD-escorted trip that cost the department $25,000.

The intense scene led Los Angeles Police Department and Sheriff's Department officials to say they planned to use existing laws to crack down on what they described as increasingly aggressive paparazzi

Councilman Dennis Zine introduced a measure to create a minimum "personal safety zone" around individuals targeted by the media. LAPD Chief William J. Bratton said the measure was not needed, arguing that existing laws were sufficient to deal with the problem.

Authorities said their tools include anti-loitering ordinances, traffic laws and rules targeting infractions such as illegally tinted windows and paper license plates.

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