VANCOUVER -- Vancouver police say a “skyrocketing” number of replica firearms are on city streets as they've seized more than twice as many of the weapons compared to just two years ago.

In the first six months of 2018, officers confiscated 103 replica firearms compared to 213 for the same period in 2020. 

The 107 per cent increase comes primarily from the Yaletown and Downtown Eastside.

The replica firearms themselves are not illegal but the ways they’re used is a serious issue for police. 

“I used to carry a Beretta as a service weapon and I can’t tell the difference, even at close range,” said Insp. Lisa Byrne Tuesday. “We have to assume every 911 call with a gun is a real gun.”

She says they recently had a 911 call for teens pointing guns at children that turned out to be replicas. Half of the guns were seized by police as a result of 911 calls. 

“It’d be pure speculation as to why (this is happening),” said Byrne. “There’s certainly a fascination with guns...they look a lot more realistic than they used to be.”

The weapons can’t fire bullets but have air cartridges that can fire round metal or plastic projectiles, like a pellet gun.

Police say they don’t cause serious injury unless they’re fired at close range or into someone’s eye, but are often used during the commission of serious crimes like robberies when it’s hard to tell them apart from the real thing. 

“You can’t carry it as a concealed weapon,” said Byrne, explaining that it would be considered possession for a dangerous purpose or threatening someone under the criminal code.

Convictions for being in possession of a replica firearm can lead to jail time.