A 64-year-old Northland woman who feared for her safety when threatened by a man twice her size says she was put on hold for 35 minutes when she tried to call the police.
But police say she'd called an old number and are urging anyone in danger to call 111 rather than trying to phone their local station.
Jane, who did not want her last name used, had a couple turn up at her Kerikeri bed-and-breakfast on July 19.
She was alone at the time — her husband was in Auckland for surgery — but there were no problems until 10am the next day, a Monday, when the couple checked out.
Jane wrote the man a receipt, as requested, but he insisted on a GST receipt. She explained the bed-and-breakfast wasn't a GST-registered business so couldn't issue GST receipts.
At that point the man became angry and threatened to report her to the IRD. Offering her accountant's details outraged him even more so she locked herself inside.
''It was quite intimidating. He was probably twice my size. He ranting and raving and bashing on the glass door, threatening to bring his mates around.''
Jane phoned Kerikeri police station and was offered a series of pre-recorded options, including a number to press if she felt threatened.
She did that but was put on hold for the next 35 minutes. All the while the man was shouting, banging on the door and talking on his phone while his wife sat in the car crying.
''The bottom line is, he wanted to pick on me because I am a small female,'' she said.
When the man finally left she was still listening to hold music so she hung up.
The next day she went to the police station where staff told her calls were now redirected to a central call centre. She was also told she should call 111 straight away if she felt in danger.
''I always thought 111 was for life or death situations. But I also naively thought police would answer my call.''
If the call centre was overloaded, instead of being played hold music, people should get a recorded instruction to phone 111 if they were in danger, she said.
WHEN TO CALL 111
You should call 111 if:
■ There's a fire of any sort.
■ You need an ambulance because someone is seriously hurt.
■ Someone is breaking into your house right now.
■ There's a car accident where people might be hurt or cars are blocking the road.
■ Someone has been assaulted and the offender is still there.
■ You're afraid for your safety or people around you.
■ You need an emergency police response.
The number for non-emergency calls is 105. Go to www.police.govt.nz/105info for more information.
Senior Sergeant Phil Le Comte, of Kerikeri police, said an officer visited the woman and her husband on Friday to provide reassurance and advice on what to do if a threatening situation arose again.
He urged anyone in danger to call 111.
''If anyone is feeling threatened, intimidated, unsafe or there's an incident happening right at that time, call us on 111 right away. That gives us the best chance of a swift response.''
Emergency call-takers could pass on information to police while still on the phone, so staff could be on their way even before the caller hung up.
Past generations had been brought up to use 111 only in ''critical incidents'', or sometimes they felt they were bothering police even if they felt threatened.
If the call-taker decided it wasn't an emergency the call could be put through to a non-emergency line instead, Le Comte said.
Since last year police had been promoting 105 as a non-emergency number, for example to report burglaries or other crimes that had already happened.
Le Comte said the Kerikeri police station number the woman had called came from a 2014 community directory and had been superseded.
Calls to the old number now went through to central crime reporting line.
He conceded it could be frustrating because people wanted to call a local number and connect with a local person, but the 105 operator could still put people through to local staff.
The woman did not want to make a formal complaint about the aggressive customer, Le Comte said.