You can now report squatters with Spanish police app Alertcops

The Spanish Interior Ministry has added a squatting report button to its AlertCops mobile application, helping you to report a squatter invasion of property to the police in real time, with photos and videos attached.

AlertCops is the mobile app of the Spanish security services (under the control of the Ministry of the Interior) that gives you a “direct line to the Spanish law enforcement authorities to report a crime of which you are a victim or witness, such as a theft, sexual assault, and now the illegal occupation of homes,” explains a press release from the Interior Ministry.

The squatting report function was added to AlertCops late last year, but I didn’t pick up on it until now whilst investigating the options for reporting squatters to the police. The squatter report functionality went largely unreported in the Spanish press when it was announced by the Government last September.

According to the Spanish Ministry of the Interior website, any case of squatting reported via the app will “immediately alert the law enforcement authorities that a break-in or wrongful possession of property is in progress.”

“Alerts will be sent to the police station nearest to the user, and an action plan set in motion by the Ministry of the Interior according to the type of crime reported,” explains the Ministry. 

In the case of squatter invasions, the police response will be guided by a recently-clarified protocol that “in the case of residential break-ins, allows the police and civil guard to proceed to immediate eviction without needing to seek judicial measures [court orders] in the case of a crime in progress.” In reality, however, I doubt it always works like that. All the recent cases of squatter invasions I have seen reported to the police did not work like that at all. The owners had to pay thousands to get the squatters out.

Squatting is the latest crime you can report through the AlertCops app, joining other categories of trouble you could already report such as robbery, assault, fights, sexual and gender violence, hate crimes, radicalisms [sic], animal cruelty, bullying, vanalism, and lost property. You can also place a call to the police, and start a chat with them, through the app. When reporting a crime you can add photos and video, and share your location, all of which will start a chat with the police on your phone.

Is AlertCops effective against squatters in Spain?

The app is surprisingly well designed for a Spanish Government app, and looks simple to use, but I’m happy to say I haven’t had any crimes to report since I installed it, so can’t test it and review how well it works. I don’t think the police would appreciate me reporting a false alarm to test it. There is an ‘alert test’ button you can use to check the system is working, and it says it is, but it might take a bit of faith to use the app in a real situation.

From the information available I get the impression you can’t use the app to report a crime from abroad, because the alert will be sent to the police station nearest to you. It sounds like you need to be at the scene of the crime in Spain to use the app. So, if you have an alarm in your property in Spain, and get wind of a break in whilst you are outside of Spain, it looks like you can’t use the app to report it to the police. That said, I don’t think you can expect a response if you ring them either. To the best of my knowledge, the police will not show up unless they are called out by a certified alarm company, or by someone physically present at the property.  In this respect the app is no worse than the phone, but at least it allows you to send photos and videos to the police, to get a better record on file than you can with the phone. In this respect, it is a better option than using the phone.But I guess the bottom line is, if you want the police to turn up at your property and kick the squatters out, you can’t report a squatter invasion from abroad by any means. You need to get a local friend or neighbour or property manager to do it for you.

If you, or someone acting on your behalf in Spain, uses the app to get the police out, will they evict the squatters on the spot? In theory yes, if there is no question a residential break-in is in progress (delito flagrante), or just happened (the burden of proof is a big issue here). But, in reality, it depends on various other factors, not least the political leanings of the municipality where your property is located. I will be explaining these factors in detail in the anti-squatter guide I’m preparing, so sign up for my news bulletin if you want to be kept informed.

Do you even want to notify the police if you have squatters in your Spanish property? That also depends, as I will explain in my guide. In some circumstances, getting the police involved can limit your options.The squatters might want you to call the police, and may even call the police to report themselves if it suits them. 

The app is available in Spanish and English, and the translation from Spanish is surprisingly good. The instructions are quite clear, and there is only the odd spelling mistake, like “a squatting is occurring.”

You can download the app from the android and iphone app stores (just search for ‘Alertcops’) and instal it on your mobile. You have to register your details, and validate your registration with a code sent to you by SMS. I guess it might not work properly if you don’t fill in the My Data section with your ID number (passport or NIE), email address, postal address, and mobile phone number, which doesn’t have to be Spanish.

Because I can’t test the AlertCops app, I can’t really review it. And even if it works well, there’s no guarantee that getting the cops involved will solve a squatter problem in Spain; it might even make it worse. Even so, if the app does work well, it’s worth knowing about if you own property in Spain. I’ll be contacting the police to see if they can provide me with more detail on how the app works in the case of squatter invasions of foreign owned property (can they respond in English? Do you have to be in Spain? etc.), and what to expect from the police response. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from anyone who has any experience of the AlertCops app.

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