New York, Feb 11 : It seems quite dangerous for the paparazzi to be close to Britney Spears now, for they fear being manhandled by L.A. gang members masked as snappers.
According to reports by some photo-agency heads, the hoard of photographers chasing the 'Toxic" star has been infiltrated by L.A. gang members.
They have claimed that rival agencies are hiring thugs with cameras and sending them out to fight with the snappers who buzz around the troubled star.
"I've heard stories of fights, of car tires being slashed, cars being blocked in," the New York Daily quoted veteran snapper Nick Stern, who quit the Splash agency this month, as saying.
However, all the agency heads interviewed on the issue claimed that they do not hire street toughs.
"They may dress like gang members with large pants and tattoos, but to say they're gang members right now, well, real gang members are not into Britney Spears. I think red carpet is worse. I used to do red carpet myself, and one guy broke my camera," said Frank Navarre, a Frenchman who owns the X17 agency.
Chris Doherty, owner of the INF agency, which got the first photo of Spears after she was sprung from the UCLA Med Center psych unit, said: "Britney Spears attracts huge numbers of photographers, and whoever muscles their way to the front gets the best picture. They're not AP photographers wearing flak jackets, but that's not to say they're thugs, either. We got it because we didn't follow the gang mentality."
However, now the agencies do not seem quite interested to continue tracking the 26-year-old star and be a part of the caravan following her.
Brad Elterman, owner of Buzz Foto, got out of the Britney phenomenon after his agency got the close-up of Spears strapped to a gurney.
"It's too dangerous. She goes through a yellow light, you go through a red. People break laws. I tell my guys now, 'Don't speed, don't chase, and stay away from Britney Spears,'" said Elterman, whose work will be featured in the show "Paparazzi as an Art Form" at L.A.'s Maryam Seyhoun Gallery.