VANCOUVER -- Real or replica? Can you tell the difference between a real firearm and an imitation? Turns out, it’s quite difficult, and it’s a growing problem on Metro Vancouver streets.

"It’s almost impossible to distinguish on the first glance," said Vancouver police Sgt. Aaron Roed.

Vancouver police are reporting a substantial increase in replica gun seizures. So far this year, 252 imitation firearms have been seized compared to 189 in 2019 and 124 in 2018.

"The guns might be fake, but the situation is real," said Roed. "I’ve been a police officer for over 20 years now, and the past few years, the increase in replica weapons that are being seized and located out there…it is way higher than it used to be."

According to Vancouver police, more than 80 per cent of the people involved are known offenders and many of the imitation firearms are being used while committing other crimes.

It is not illegal to possess imitation firearms, but it is illegal to use one in a crime, possess it as a weapon for a dangerous purpose or carry it as a concealed weapon.

"Someone is going to get hurt whether it’s the person who has the gun or somebody else and we definitely don’t want that to happen," said Roed.

Anyone who notices any suspicious activity involving replica firearms is urged to call 911.