Surveillance sign on a block of empty apartments on the island of Ibiza.FRANCISCO UBILLA
The latest annual report of the State Attorney General’s Office confirms a downward trend, already reflected in the most recent crime statistics of the Ministry of the Interior, in the number of cases of home occupation. The document, made public on Thursday, highlights that in 2022 there had been a “remarkable” decrease of 9% in the number of procedures initiated for “usurpations of real estate”, in reference to entries into empty apartments owned by banks or funds. of investment and that represent 98.9% of the cases opened for what is popularly known as occupations. Specifically, last year 8,868 were registered compared to 9,729 the previous year. Between 2018 and 2021, the number of these judicial procedures had remained “practically unchanged, with percentage variations that did not exceed 1%,” highlights the Prosecutor’s Office report. In Spain there are 26 million homes (almost four million empty) and 48 million inhabitants.
Regarding home invasions – the other criminal figure that encompasses the phenomenon of occupation and which is the one that has the most media resonance and, with it, creates the most alarm by affecting the habitual residence or second residence of individuals -, the Figures from the Prosecutor’s Office continue to reflect its exceptional nature. Last year, 96 indictments were filed for this crime, a number that, although it represents an increase compared to 2021, when there were 83, still represents a residual percentage of the phenomenon, slightly above 1% of occupations. Burglary is punishable by prison sentences of six months to two years; and usurpation, with a fine of three to six months if it is peaceful and up to two years in prison if it is violent.
·In its report, the Prosecutor’s Office recalls that in September 2020 it issued an instruction in which it detailed the steps to follow to guarantee maximum speed in action against illegal occupations of homes and that it considers that it has also given “greater confidence and security to “police forces in order to achieve a more effective response in these cases.” Shortly afterwards, the Interior developed an action protocol for the agents and strengthened investigations against organized groups that carry out occupations for hire to later rent the property to third parties and even to install so-called narco flats or brothels in them. Other criminal groups demand a ransom from the owner to return the home. The Mossos d’Esquadra dismantled one of these organized gangs in November 2022 in the so-called Operation Squatter.
The decrease reflected in the latest report of the Prosecutor’s Office had already been noted by the Interior Crime Statistical System, which compiles information from the National Police, the Civil Guard, the regional police forces and the municipal bodies. The figures from Fernando Grande-Marlaska’s department indicate that in 2022 – the year to which the last report of the public ministry refers – 16,726 complaints had been filed (not all of them end in judicial proceedings) for occupations, including in this term both usurpations and raids. This figure was 3.2% less than the previous year, when the number of cases had skyrocketed to 17,274, the all-time high. In fact, it was the first time that a phenomenon that had suffered a continuous and sharp increase since 2016 under the PP and PSOE governments was stopped.
The most recent statistical data from the Interior, referring to the first five months of 2023, continue this downward trend from last year. Thus, the number of home invasions and break-ins registered between January and May 2023 was 6,648, 11.1% less than the same period in 2022, when there were 7,485. By communities, the decrease until May reached 12 of them and the two autonomous cities, including Catalonia, Andalusia, the Valencian Community and Madrid, the four regions most affected by this phenomenon and which accumulate eight out of every 10 complaints.
Thus, in Catalonia, where the most complaints are received by far, the number went from 3,147 in the first five months of 2022 to 2,798 in the same period of this year (a decrease of 11.1%); in Andalusia, from 1,075 to 1,036 (3.7% less); in the Valencian Community, from 908 to 716 (21.1% lower), and in Madrid, from 701 to 649 (7.4% lower). Only in three communities have the numbers increased in the first months of the year, although in all of them in an almost symbolic way. Thus, in Asturias it has gone from 24 to 29; in La Rioja, from 6 to 7 p.m.; and in the Canary Islands, from 215 to 239. The statistics do not include the Basque Country as they do not include the data from the Ertzaintza. However, crime experts recommend being cautious with these data and, although they admit that they are a first symptom of the stagnation and decline of the phenomenon, they recommend waiting to see how it evolves in the coming years.
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The data from the Prosecutor’s Office are known months after the PP and Vox turned the occupation of real estate into one of their campaign arguments in the last elections on July 23. The popular program spoke, despite the fact that the Interior statistics that pointed to a decline were already known, of a “growing phenomenon” that had “skyrocketed in recent years” and promised new legal regulations in “defense of property.” private.”
In Madrid and Castilla y León, both governed by Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s party – in the second case together with Santiago Abascal’s party – the regional executives have set up telephone lines and offices to report complaints against the occupation of properties that, without However, so far they have received few inquiries from neighbors. In the first month of operation of the Castilla y León office, these offices received less than one call a day. In Madrid, the average was six every 24 hours.
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