ARMED police were sent into Doncaster town centre – after a man in fancy dress and carrying a toy machete sparked fear among residents.
Officers received calls after people saw a masked man carrying what appeared to be a weapon, on Halloween.
But the man handed the offending toy over to police when he was confronted by the armed officers.
The scare has now led to a warning from a top police officer that people who carry model guns and knives were putting their lives at risk.
Officers said they saw the man in Doncaster town centre wearing full camouflage, a hessian sack with eye holes cut out and carrying the 16in machete.
They approached him and commanded him to stand still.
Police said the man then turned towards them and said: “Happy Halloween.”
The machete was confiscated for his own safety, said police.
Insp Rachel Usher, South Yorkshire Police firearms support group inspector, said: “If we get a call from a member of the public saying there is someone in a public place carrying a something like a machete, we will respond in what is the normal way.
“If there is a fear of violence and someone says they have seen a knife of that sort, we do not know whether it is real or not. On this occasion it was not a real one, thankfully.
“But the only people who have reason to carry something like that are people who have just bought it for a good reason, like butchers taking it to their work.
“Common sense has to prevail.
“People are potentially putting their lives in danger if they are going out with fake guns or knives, because we do not know if they are real and quite often have to make decisions in low light.
“The fact someone is in Halloween costume does not matter – people have robbed service stations wearing Scream masks.”
Insp Usher said it did not matter whether it was Halloween or not when they made their decision on their response.
She said officers carry out education sessions in schools called Guns and Knives take Lives, in which pupils are given seven seconds to guess whether guns and knives are real or fake.
But they are told that research has shown that armed police often have only 0.7 seconds to make their decisions on whether weapons are real or not.