MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) - Many fake guns look real, but now criminals are making real guns look like toys.
Captain John Stringer of the Madison Police Department says these toy store wannabes are providing new challenges to law enforcement officers.
"It's another method of people on the street, especially some of our bad guys being able to hide the weapons from a distance. If it's painted pink or blue we typically don't associate that with a threat, it's something that is typically a toy, so we are much less likely to treat it as a threat."
Officers are trained to react to an individual producing a firearm from the torso area in about 1.2 seconds. This newest wrinkle adds yet another delay.
"In that time, the officer also has to decide, now, is this a real weapon, is it a credible threat and now we're slowing down reaction time as well," said Stringer.
Officers are not the only ones at risk, though.
"This is going to slow down the reaction time, not only for police officers, but our citizens on the street to decide whether or not somebody is actually posing a credible threat to them," said Stringer
Madison police officers receive annual in-service training, but Stringer says bulletins are also posted regularly to remind officers of new threats.
"When your goal is to be able to go home safely each night to your family, this is something that our officers have to be made aware of and they have to make good, responsible decisions."
Stringer says this trend is not an issue in the Tennessee Valley, but his officers continue to stay aware of any developing threats.
"It's something that we haven't seen here on a regular basis, but because it's out there, it is imperative that we give our officers that training."