The mayor of Upper Hutt is furious the public was not alerted earlier that a convicted child rapist was on the run.
But police say their efforts to locate Daniel Livingstone began when officers first attended his property at 4am yesterday - not hours later, when they confirmed he was missing.
It has now been about 38 hours since Daniel Livingstone removed his monitoring bracelet and disappeared from his Upper Hutt flat.
Mr Livingstone, who is in his late 20s, abducted and raped a 10-year-old girl in Whangarei in 2006 and was under an extended supervision order following his release from prison last year.
A tamper alert on his GPS bracelet was activated at about 1.30am yesterday but it was seven hours before officers, who knocked on his door at least twice during the night, broke into his home and found him gone.
Upper Hutt mayor Wayne Guppy said the police had failed the community.
"Seven hours it took for someone to actually say 'maybe we better break in and see what's going on and that is not acceptable to any community," he said.
"Events like this should not take place. We should have the processes in place. There's a major system failure here."
Mr Guppy said parents were now being extra vigilant and most would be picking their children up instead of allowing them to walk or bike home.
In a statement today, police said officers first attended Mr Livingstone's property at the request of the Corrections Department at 4am on Thursday.
They then visited a second time and carried out area patrols, before visiting an address of one of Mr Livingstone's associates.
Wellington District Commander Superintendent Sam Hoyle said they did not have permission to enter without a warrant but, on the third visit, broke in because of the seriousness of the situation. It was then they confirmed Mr Livingstone was gone.
Mr Livingstone has been described as being in his late 20s, 175cm tall, Maori and of medium build.
The police have said he is a high-risk offender and should not be approached.
Detective Inspector Grant Wormald told Morning Report potential sightings of Mr Livingstone had been reported in Wellington, Palmerston North and Whangarei but none had led to his location.
He said police had found what could be described as a suicide note, indicating that he may do himself harm.
"As much as we're concerned to locate him to protect the public, we're also concerned to locate him as quickly as we can to make sure that he's OK."
Several schools in Upper Hutt said their teachers were on high alert and they had reinforced the idea of "stranger danger" to their children.
"Around school time and the like we should be particularly vigilant as parents and care givers, and go that extra mile today to make sure our children get to school safe," Mr Wormald said.
"Part of the reason for going as public as we have is to just make sure that we do everything that we possibly can to protect the public from someone who might be in a bad space at the moment and could do harm."
One academic said today that the fact Mr Livingstone was able to escape was further proof the electronic bracelet monitoring system was a failure.
Auckland University law professor Bill Hodge said it was bad timing for Corrections so soon after Tony Robertson was jailed for 24 years for raping and killing Blessie Gotingco while on GPS monitoring.
Professor Hodge said he doubted the two cases were just a bad coincidence - and said they could be typical of Corrections' shortcomings.
"I'm suspecting that they're actually very typical and to that extent I think Corrections, with the assistance of maybe some high-powered people outside Corrections, [should] take a very careful look at this policy."
Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga said he was deeply concerned by the case and has asked his officials for more details about Mr Livingstone's monitoring.