Anger at 111 wait: 'If I'd had a heart attack, I would have been dead'

An eight and a half minute wait to speak to the police after dialling 111 has left a Cobden resident outraged.

Kathleen Allan contacted the Greymouth Star on Saturday morning, after trying to report suspicious activity on her property the night before.

"I'm so angry. I was on the phone for eight and a half minutes. In that time there was a noise - almost the whole time like a whistle being blown - with a voice saying 'hold on'.

"I then decided I had had enough. If I'd had a heart attack, I would have been dead."

It all began on Friday about 10pm when Mrs Allan heard two thumps on the side of her house.

Initially thinking "some drunk" had come onto her property she looked out to find a "very expensive bike" left in her driveway. She later discovered other signs that someone had been on her property.

"I looked out the window and here was this bike on the driveway. I thought that was concerning but I'm not ringing the police at this hour of the night because I would be waiting."

She decided "an appropriate time" would be Saturday morning and from about 8.30am attempted to make contact.

"No-one was there. Is the Government so bloody broke that every emergency service in the country is on hold?" she asked.

Mrs Allan said she dialled 111 given the difficulty of tracing the local Greymouth station number and knowing it was unlikely she would get to speak to local police staff anyway.

She had subsequently been in contact with police who had told her she should have dialled 111 as the incident happened on Friday night.

They had also been supportive and "told me they would keep me informed". She understood the bike had been returned to its rightful owner.

By Brendon McMahon

However, Mrs Allan said being left waiting so long on the 111 system was disturbing and in light of the "crooks and vagabonds" increasingly on the West Coast, less than reassuring.

"The 111 call number, that is an emergency number for people in distress. I wasn't, but I thought which number should I ring?"

A Greymouth Star member who called 111 on the night of April 8 also reported spending about five minutes waiting to be connected to police.

West Coast police prevention manager senior sergeant Brent Cook, said those who were unsure should dial 111.

Local police wanted to hear from anyone who experienced a delay in being connected.

Mr Cook said the 111 system was supposed to be "very responsive" and "rather sharpish" in reacting to the public.

Calling 111 was the right thing to do, "if you are not sure, call 111". Police would at their end "triage" the priority or urgency prompted by the call and work back from that, Mr Cook said.

"If it upset you that much, give us a call. If in doubt, if you want some advice or service, call 111. People who don't want to 'be a nuisance', no you are not."

He noted a shift to more mobile policing for the West Coast meant police staff were less likely to "be stationary" and instead out on patrol. This made calling 111 all the more important for a quick response.

Someone could be immediately dispatched.

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