Britney Spears has quite enough to answer for if you take into account her musical output alone, but now she's abetting criminals as well.

I don't think she means to do this; I doubt, in fact, that she even realizes she is encouraging all manner of extralegal activity.

I have not a whit of interest in Spears' career but I do watch the TV news and so I'm kept abreast of her exploits rather against my will, as if by coaxial cable osmosis.

On a recent evening the set was on and I noticed, in my peripheral vision, a parade of maybe a dozen police cars moving, at a sedate speed, down a street with their revolving lights all aglow.

This was, I presumed based on the sheer show of force, a procession arranged for the president, or possibly for the Pope. The latter seemed less likely, though, as there was no sign of the Popemobile.

I tapped the volume button on my remote several times so I could hear what was happening (or at any rate what had already happened, as there was no graphic on the screen to indicate whether the footage was live).

It turns out, though, that this considerable cadre of police had assembled not to protect the leader of the free world or the Holy See himself from an assassin's bullet, but rather to shelter Spears from the irritating but decidedly non-lethal telephoto lenses of the paparazzi.

Spears was a passenger in an ambulance that was either delivering her to a hospital or hauling her home from a hospital. I never did get which it was.

This, however, is hardly the point.

What is the point, it seemed to me, is that a police force sufficient to patrol a small city was instead chasing a celebrity like a horde of autograph seekers.

The 21st century version of the James Gang could have held up everyone on the next block without fear of police reprisal.

I might go along with the saturation patrol approach if police were needed to make sure people who live in Spears' neighborhood don't get trampled when they fetch the mail or walk the dog.

But the police weren't doing that. Nor, frankly, could they.

The paparazzi, though they were making a general nuisance of themselves, were doing so on a public street which, if you're going to be a nuisance, is a good, not to mention constitutionally sound, place to operate from.

If I was a larcenous sort I would simply hold out for Spears' next hospital visit. And this, I feel comfortable in saying, is an event nearly as inevitable as the tides.

Jayson Jacoby is the editor of the Baker City Herald.