Celebrity burglaries puts spotlight on aggressive paparazzi
The methods allegedly used by a group of teenagers suspected by authorities of burglarizing the homes of such stars as Lindsay Lohan, Orlando Bloom and Paris Hilton has raised concerns about the intrusive glare of the paparazzi.
According to police detectives, the group used celebrity websites and paparazzi photos to track schedules and movements of the people they are suspected of burglarizing. They looked for times when the stars were scheduled to either be out of town or attending movie premieres, award ceremonies or other events, police said.
"A good copy of a star map and some tabloid magazine, and you're good to go," said Blair Berk, a well-known Hollywood attorney who represents some of the victims.
Berk and others have expressed growing alarm at the depth to which paparazzi invade the lives of celebrities. Three years ago, there was much discussion about a new, aggressive group of photographers who relentlessly followed certain young stars wherever they went.
Britney Spears was perhaps the most striking example, as photographers camped outside her home and followed her around L.A. in caravans.
Berk said such coverage provides a unwitting road map to anyone wanting to get close to celebrities.
"Paparazzi shots and magazine coverage are increasingly prying into the private homes, schools and personal possessions of stars," Berk said. "That [is] increasingly creating a very real danger in terms of mentally ill stalkers and criminals."
"There are only so many shots of a star's back gate before someone, be it a stalker or burglar, goes through it," she added.
Photographers have argued that they are simply feeding the public's desire to see their favorite celebrities -- often living their own lives. They have also questioned how much personal information one can glean from the photos.
Four teens -- Rachel Lee, 19; Diana Tamayo, 19; Courtney Ames, 18; and Alexis Neiers, 18 -- were arrested last week on suspicion of burglary in several of the recent cases involving celebrities. The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has not filed charges against them. LAPD sources said detectives have linked the teenagers to break-ins at the homes of Hilton, Lohan, Bloom and "The O.C." star Rachel Bilson.
Most of the group were classmates at Indian Hills High School, a continuation campus in Agoura Hills.
-- Richard Winton and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: A video still from a surveillance camera shows three females attempting to enter the Hollywood Hills home of actress Lindsay Lohan in August. Credit: Los Angeles Police Department
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