SHOPKEEPERS alerted Police Scotland as a criminal gang passed forged notes only to be told it could be three days before an officer was free.
The businesses are furious at the national force for missing an easy opportunity to catch the gang red-handed.
Police Scotland has admitted it received the calls and did not respond because officers were dealing with a “number of ongoing incidents” at the time.
The revelation will intensify fears that the recently-created force is not providing an adequate service. Last week, it emerged that serving officers had put their names to a petition calling for a return to the original eight regional forces.
The incident happened in Dunfermline, Fife, last Friday and a garden centre, a boutique, a garage, and a convenience store were targeted.
The boss of Fairley’s Garden Centre, Ian MacDonald, said: “At about 3pm a group of three men attempted to pass counterfeit money to four businesses in Cairneyhill.
“I got the car registration and phoned the police but I was told no officer would be able to get out until Saturday or Monday.
“About an hour later, the group came back and this time they clocked the boutique clothes shop, La Vida, on our premises, and then tried to pass forged money again on to the garage on Main Street. All this time I was on the phone to police.
He added: “We are hard-working, law-abiding citizens trying our best to help the police and we just get no response. It begs the question, are the police even interested in catching crooks?”
The owner of La Vida boutique, Laura Campbell, said she was alone and closing up when the group returned to her shop.
She said: “I was absolutely terrified when they came back. I was a woman, alone and I had no protection.
“It’s very obvious that the group are going to come back and target my boutique. It’s just not good enough – businesses are just sitting targets.”
Police Scotland said they were unable to get forces out immediately as officers were dealing with other “urgent” enquiries.
A spokesman confirmed police in Fife received a number of calls from two businesses in Cairneyhill relating to the suspicious behaviour of three men, who were seen within the stores and in a vehicle outside.
“Both callers also reported that counterfeit currency had been used to pay for goods and believed the same individuals were involved.
“Officers were dealing with a number of ongoing incidents requiring an urgent police response and so attempts were made to arrange a suitable appointment to speak to complainers and obtain full statements.
“We will continue to gather information and conduct the necessary inquiries in relation to these incidents.
“Police Scotland treats all reports of crime with the utmost seriousness and have agreed processes in place to grade calls appropriately so that any emergency situation receives the necessary response.”
This incident will increase pressure on Police Scotland, who have been the subject of numerous criticisms throughout the past two weeks.
Last week, a change.org petition calling for Police Scotland to be scrapped received more than 1,300 signatures.
At least a dozen petitioners said they were serving officers and gave their full names, despite the risk of facing disciplinary action.
Officers described the creation of a national force as the “worst decision ever” and a “shambles” and demanded a return to regional policing.