The annual use of force report from Greater Sudbury Police released this week showed a small but alarming increase of fake guns being brandished on city streets.
Police encountered the replica weapons five times last year, compared to just once in 2015. Police Chief Paul Pedersen said people put themselves at risk.
"There have been a number of campaigns provincially, as well as locally, about the dangers involved in carrying replica firearms in our community,” Pedersen said
Wednesday after the police services board meeting. “We can't tell the difference. Oftentimes, even after we seize them, we have to turn them over to firearm experts to be find out for sure.
"To anybody out there who thinks we can tell a toy gun from the real one, we can't. As a result, we respond as if someone was pointing a firearm at us."
With police having dealt with more weapons calls in 2016 compared to 2015 – 26 compared to 17 a year earlier – the last thing police need is to have to deal with fake guns, as well.
"There's never a good time to be carrying around replica firearms around our community," Pedersen said.