NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Charges were filed Friday against 19 NYPD officers in the Bronx, on allegations that they downgraded the severity of complaints.

The 40th Precinct officers, who patrol the Mott Haven section of the Bronx, are accused of failing to process crime complaints properly during a four-month period in 2014, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said.

According to authorities, an audit of the precinct, its radio call response activities and its complaint reports turned up 55 such alleged instances, 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

“These disciplinary charges are strict but fair,” Bratton said. “The purposeful misrepresentation of crime data is rare but nevertheless unacceptable, and it will be dealt with accordingly.”

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, the complaints in question were about minor crimes. A majority of the reports were in the five offense categories of petit larceny, lost property, misdemeanor assault, criminal mischief and criminal trespass, authorities said.

A law enforcement source told WCBS 880 there was some evidence to suggest the incidents should have been recorded as more serious crimes such as burglary and grand larceny.

As CBS2’s Matt Kozar reported, the allegations had longtime resident Melvin Howell upset.

“They’re trying to make it look like crime is down, just to avoid really handling their business,” Howell said.

Those charged include one lieutenant, eight sergeants, nine officers and one detective, police said.

The commanding officer of the precinct has been reassigned, Silverman reported.

Bratton said the statistics are integral to how the department formulates its crime-fighting strategies.

“I will not tolerate any misconduct that might undermine public confidence in the hard work of the thousands of officers who have made this the safest large city in America,” the commissioner said.

All are facing charges of misreporting.

The NYPD said the 55 complaint reports are being corrected to reflect the proper offense categories.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch released a statement Friday saying the root of the problem is with the department’s upper ranks and a shortage of officers.

“We agree that crime stats have to be accurate in order to know where and when to assign police resources. However, because of the serious shortage of police officers over the last decade and a half, management has consistently hammered police officers to reduce felonies to misdemeanors, Lynch said.

“It’s an artificial way of keeping felonies down with fewer officers on the street, a problem that we still experience today, he added. “This union has been vocal about the problem since 2004. Police officers follow the dictates of their bosses or they suffer the consequences.”

Lynch said the PBA will “vigorously defend” the accused police officers.

Awilda Cordera, who runs a community group in the South Bronx called Emergency Rights, said she was disturbed by the allegations.

“If bad things are happening in the community, we actually need to know,” she said. “We’re working down the street. Anything could happen to us if we’re not aware of what’s going on.”

Due to the corrections, the NYPD said overall crime statistics for the precinct in 2014 has been changed from a decrease of 14 percent to a decrease of 11.4 percent.

Allegations of downgrading crime plagued the previous administration with suggestions that crime rates were low in part because officers were claiming higher-level crimes like rape were being labeled as assaults to make precincts seem safer.

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