More violent beach confrontations feared, police presence to increase

Malibu Lost Hills Sheriff's Capt. Tom Martin speaks to the media Wednesday evening about the violent weekend beach incidents as Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca looks on. Photo by Nora Fleming/TMT

Due to threats against each other being posted by surfers and paparazzi on Web sites this week, the Malibu Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station is anticipating another violent confrontation this weekend on Malibu’s beaches. The station will have an increased number of officers patrolling the 27-mile coastline this weekend, Capt. Tom Martin announced during a press conference Wednesday evening at City Hall.

The Internet threats come in the wake of this past weekend’s violent incidents that made international headlines. On Saturday, a group of surfers and photagraphers clashed when the photographers attempted to take pictures of actor Matthew McConaughey surfing off Paradise Cove. The violence included the destruction of expensive camera equipment. A similar incident occurred the next day.

Video footage of the confrontations have been posted on several Internet sites.

Martin said there are two reported victims from the first incident, one beachgoer and one photographer, and four reported from the second conflict, all photographers. He said two detectives are working on the case and have relied on second-hand, edited footage posted online to identify more parties involved. The detectives are trying to get the other people to step forward to provide information and they have asked the photographers to turn over any footage or still shots of the events.

“This type of behavior will not be tolerated on the beach,” Martin said. “We are actively pursuing the individuals who are responsible for this behavior and we are going to do our best to prosecute them for this behavior. We are working within the law to enforce the law, [but] we need the cooperation of the victims … and get their help to identify the people who perpetrated the crimes.”

The incidents are the latest development in what has been an escalating issue in Malibu and other celebrity-filled cities, finding a balance between the First Amendment rights of paparazzi and public safety. Mayor Pamela Conley Ulich spoke at the press conference about a “new breed” of paparazzi.

“Many paparazzi in Malibu do their job within the law,” Conley Ulich said. “They are respectful of the people they photograph and the people who live and visit our town. However, there seems to be a new breed of paparazzi who act with reckless disregard for the safety of residents, vistors and children alike.”

The mayor said Malibu is teaming with other local cities to create a task force to find solutions to mitigate future problems. The task force will include Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Kenneth Starr and other Constitutional legal scholars.

“The task force will produce a guide to inform residents and visitors alike about legal actions they can take, both civil and criminal, to maintain peace and order in Malibu,” Conley Ulich said.

The mayor said she hopes the task force will begin meeting by August and provide recommendations in the fall.

The city has already begun working with Starr to determine what legislation could be passed without infringing on Constitutional rights.

Martin said one tool Sheriff’s officals have to prevent some problems from occuring is enforcing traffic laws such as speeding, red light running and illegal u-turns. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said the city could require paparazzi to obtain business licenses and to use better technology and equipment to photograph from safer distances.