Cape Breton Regional Police are worried about the growing number of offences involving imitation weapons.

In the past week, four people have been charged for allegedly using cap-style pistols and BB guns.

Last week, two teens were charged after they allegedly took a cap-style pistol into Memorial High School in Sydney Mines.

Over the weekend, police said someone in a vehicle used a pellet handgun to fire at another vehicle near the Mayflower Mall in Sydney.

Sgt. Kenny Routledge said the guns look like real weapons and the consequences could be deadly.

"You point these weapons at an officer, lethal force could be justified," he said.

Routledge said it's all about police and public safety.

"When it comes to the police and how we respond to these situations, we can't take them as a joke, we have to take them as real," he said.

"Some of these imitation weapons are real and we can't deal with them in any other way. The minute we start to get complacent and deal with them as toys and fakes we are going to put ourselves in a liability [situation] and somebody could get hurt."

Crown attorney Steve Drake said the penalties are stiff if there's a conviction involving imitation firearms.

"Parliament is very clear and the courts take it very seriously — if you're convicted, you will go to jail," he said.

"The sentences can be up to a maximum of 14 years. In the right circumstances the minimum is one year for a commission of a crime — if you're convicted — with an imitation firearm."

Police said when imitation weapons are used for target shooting or recreational purposes, they are legal. But when they are pointed at someone or used in a threatening manner, they are considered weapons.

Drake said there is no mandatory minimum sentence for using a replica firearm under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Each case is treated differently when it comes to sentencing.