Uber says it received over 3,000 reports of sexual assault in U.S. in 2018

By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) – Ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc said it received over 3,000 reports of sexual assault related to its 1.3 billion rides in the United States last year, in a report aimed at ensuring drivers and the public it was serious about safety.

The figure represents a 16% fall in the rate of incidents from the previous year in the five most serious categories of sexual assault reported, Uber said on Thursday in its first biennial U.S. Safety Report.

The firm also said reports of assaults on passengers overlooked risks for drivers as riders accounted for roughly half of the accused.

The 84-page report comes almost two weeks after Uber said it would appeal the loss of its license to carry passengers in London over a “pattern of failures” on safety and security.

Uber, which in the past has faced criticism over safety on its platform and has been repeatedly hit with lawsuits over driver misconduct, last year committed to releasing a safety report in a sign of a cultural turnaround under its new CEO.

The firm, which operates in 70 countries, said the report showed its commitment to transparency to improve accountability and safety industry-wide. It said it would use what it learned producing the report for its “next steps” in other places.

“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common. Some people will appreciate how much we’ve done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right,” tweeted Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi.

In the report, Uber said 99.9% of its 2.3 billion U.S. trips in 2017 and 2018 ended without safety incidents.

It said it received 235 reports of “non-consensual sexual penetration” last year and 280 of “attempted non-consensual sexual penetration” – nearly all filed by women. The remaining assault reports included incidents of unwanted kissing or touching of body parts.

It also detailed 10 fatal physical assaults in 2017 and nine in 2018 – eight victims were riders, seven were drivers using Uber’s app, and four were third parties such as bystanders.

At an event on Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said he prioritized improving Uber’s culture and safety when assuming his role in 2017. At the time, Uber was dealing with regulatory fallout and public backlash over its business practices, forcing former CEO and founder Travis Kalanick to step down.

“We had to change the culture internally and we simply got to do the right thing,” Khosrowshahi said, adding that Uber was not hiding anything by publishing internal information.

Rival Lyft Inc in a statement said it was committed to releasing its own safety report and sharing information on unsafe drivers. It did not state a release date for its report.

BACKGROUND CHECKS

Uber said it puts drivers through a vigorous background check before accepting them onto its platform. In its report, it said one million drivers failed to pass the screening test in 2017 and 2018 and more than 40,000 were removed from the app after extra screening layers.

Regulators have long said Uber’s screening process was insufficient and inferior to those in place for taxi drivers, with several U.S. cities attempting to compel Uber to mandate fingerprinting of its drivers.

New York City is currently the only U.S. city where drivers have to provide fingerprints and undergo the same licensing requirements as regular taxi drivers.

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission in response to Uber’s safety report on Thursday said there was no substitute for background checks based on fingerprinting.

“They are the best way to prevent against drivers with criminal records,” its Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen said in a statement.

An Uber spokeswoman on Thursday said the firm’s screening process was robust and rigorous, and was more reliable than the database for fingerprints where she said not all crimes are updated promptly.

Uber’s share price was down 1.57% in after-hours trade at $28.20.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon; Additional reporting by Neha Malara; Writing by Peter Henderson and Ismail Shakil; Editing by Chris Reese and Christopher Cushing)

Sexual assaults spike in U.S. military, hit new record: Pentagon

Women Soldiers Image by Mario Cesar on Pixiebay

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Defense Department said on Thursday the estimated number of sexual assaults in the military climbed nearly 38 percent in 2018 compared with a survey two years earlier, data that critics say laid bare broken Pentagon promises of a crackdown.

The Pentagon said there were 6,053 reports of sexual assaults last year, according to an anonymous, bi-annual survey. It is a record number and the highest since the U.S. military began collecting this kind of survey data in 2004.

Taking into consideration unreported cases as well, the military survey estimated 20,500 male and female service members experienced some kind of sexual assault last year. The estimated number in 2016 was 14,900.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic presidential candidate who has been an advocate for overhauling rules for prosecution of sex crimes in the U.S. military, said the data made clear that it was time for Congress to act.

“Sexual assaults continue to increase dramatically while the number of cases going to trial goes down,” she said. “The status quo is not working.”

The report found that the odds of a military woman between the ages of 17 and 20 being sexually assaulted was one in eight.

“It is time for Congress to stop giving the failing military leadership the benefit of doubt and pass real reform empowering military prosecutors. Enough is enough,” said Don Christensen, a retired colonel and former chief Air Force prosecutor who now leads the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders.

The Pentagon said it was going to make changes to deal with the spike.

“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards

and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said in a memo. “This is unacceptable. We cannot shrink from facing the challenge head-on. We must, and will, do better.”

In a briefing on Thursday, a senior official told reporters that the Pentagon was looking to make sexual harassment a stand-alone crime.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Bill Trott)

Increase in sexual assault at U.S. military academies: survey

Military helicopters, conducting a military training exercise, fly past the Statue of Liberty in this photograph taken from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S., March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Ashlee Espinal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Incidents of unwanted sexual contact increased by nearly 50 percent at top U.S. military academies over the past two years, according to a Pentagon survey released on Thursday, highlighting an issue that has long plagued the military.

The study, part of a report released annually, said there had been 747 instances of unwanted sexual contact in 2018, compared to 507 in 2016.

Sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military is largely under-reported and came under renewed scrutiny two years ago after a scandal involving Marines sharing nude photos of women online came to light.

The survey said that 16.5 percent of female cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2018, compared to 10.2 percent in 2016.

All cadets at West Point as well as a Navy and Air Force academy were given the opportunity to take part in the survey.

In a statement, the Army said it had directed West Point to create a plan in the next few weeks to tackle the issue.

“There is no room in the U.S. Army for sexual harassment or sexual assault,” the statement said.

“This is a readiness issue that affects our ability to prepare to fight and win our Nation’s wars as much as it is an issue of values,” it added.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Alistair Bell)

Texan who published 3-D guns plans jailed on sex assault charge

Cody Wilson, a Texan 3-D printed gun maker who flew to Taiwan as police investigated an accusation he had sex with an underage girl, stands in the lobby of Your Hotel in Taipei, Taiwan, September 20, 2018 in this still image from CCTV footage. Courtesy "Your Hotel"/via Reuters TV

(Reuters) – A Texas man running a 3-D printed guns company was booked into a Houston jail on a charge of sexual assault on Sunday after Taiwanese officials sent him back to the United States, where he is accused of having sex with an underage girl.

Cody Wilson, 30, flew to Taiwan after learning he was under investigation, police said, and was picked up by Taiwanese authorities on Friday after his U.S. passport was annulled. He was deported to the United States on Saturday.

He was booked into Harris County jail in Houston on Sunday, according to the jail’s website.

Wilson’s attorney, Samy Khalil, said in a statement late on Sunday: “We are glad that Cody is back in Texas again where we can work with him on his case. That’s our focus right now, representing our client and preparing his defense.”

As the founder of Defense Distributed, Wilson became a notable figure in the U.S. debate over guns after the company posted on the internet the blueprints for plastic guns that can be made with a 3-D printer.

The files could previously be downloaded for free but a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction last month that blocked the posting of the blueprints online.

Wilson was placed under investigation after a counselor told authorities on Aug. 22 a 16-year-old girl said she was paid $500 to have sex with Wilson at an Austin hotel, police said.

Investigators later interviewed the girl and obtained a warrant for Wilson’s arrest on Wednesday, but by then he had caught a flight to Taiwan. Police said at the time they were aware Wilson traveled often for business but that it was not clear why he had flown to Taiwan.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Paul Tait)

U.S. imposes sanctions on Myanmar military over Rohingya crackdown

Rohingya refugees, who crossed the border from Myanmar two days before, walk after they received permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue on to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh October 19, 2017. Reuters photographer Jorge Silva: "This picture was taken after a huge group of people crossed into Bangladesh and then had to wait three days and nights for the Bangladeshi Army's permission to continue walking into the makeshift camps. The line of people seemed endless. Long hours moving slowly across the embankments of the rice field. Mothers with babies and pregnant women, elderly people with illnesses, men carrying their entire life on their shoulders. They were safe from violence, but the challenge of surviving was still waiting for them on this side of the river." REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on four Myanmar military and police commanders and two army units for involvement in what it called “ethnic cleansing” and other human rights abuses against the country’s Rohingya Muslims, the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions marked the toughest U.S. action so far in response to Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingya minority which started last year and has driven more than 700,000 people into neighboring Bangladesh and left thousands of dead behind.

But the Trump administration did not target the highest levels of the Myanmar military and also stopped short of calling the anti-Rohingya campaign crimes against humanity or genocide, which has been the subject of debate within the U.S. government.

“Burmese security forces have engaged in violent campaigns against ethnic minority communities across Burma, including ethnic cleansing, massacres, sexual assault, extrajudicial killings, and other serious human rights abuses,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, using an alternative name for Myanmar.

“Treasury is sanctioning units and leaders overseeing this horrific behavior as part of a broader U.S. government strategy to hold accountable those responsible for such wide-scale human suffering,” Mandelker said.

The sanctions targeted military commanders Aung Kyaw Zaw, Khin Maung Soe, Khin Hlaing, and border police commander Thura San Lwin, in addition to the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Divisions, the Treasury said.

A Reuters special report in June gave a comprehensive account of the roles played by the two infantry divisions in the offensive against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s military has denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and says its actions were part of a fight against terrorism.

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Tim Ahmann and Makini Brice, David Brunnstrom; Editing by Bill Rigby)

In China, #MeToo escalates as public figures are accused of sexual assault

FILE PHOTO: A woman is reflected in a window of an office in Shanghai. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

By Pei Li and Ryan Woo

BEIJING (Reuters) – Accusations of sexual assault spread across China’s social media this week as the #MeToo movement took aim at prominent activists, intellectuals, and a television personality.

In a country where issues like sexual assault have traditionally been brushed under the carpet, China’s fledgling #MeToo movement speaks to a changing mindset among the younger generation.

China’s millions of social media users have also ensured that any news, scandals, and grievances spread quickly. The spread of accusations about prominent Chinese figures presents a challenge for the government, which has censored some but not all of the social media posts.

The accusations have stoked heated online debate about sexual misconduct and what constitutes consensual sex or rape. On Friday, “sexual assault evidence collection” was the 2nd-ranked topic on popular social media platform Sina Weibo.

So far this week, more than 20 women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, sparked by an accusation on Monday that has rocked a non-government organization.

Lei Chuang, founder of Yi You, a prominent non-government charity, confessed in an online statement to an accusation of sexual assault. Lei has quit the organization after his confession. Three other activists were embroiled in separate accusations of sexual misconduct by the end of the week.

The most prominent sexual assault allegation this week came from a young legal worker who goes by the pseudonym Little Spirit. The 27-year-old said Zhang Wen – a veteran journalist and online political commentator in China – had raped her after a banquet in May, an allegation that prompted six other women to accuse him of sexual harassment and groping.

Zhang, in a statement Wednesday, denied the rape allegation, saying his affair with the accuser was consensual.

Jiang Fangzhou, a prominent fellow writer and deputy editor-in-chief of the Guangdong-based magazine New Weekly, said on her WeChat account that Zhang had groped her at a meal on one occasion.

Among others, the journalist Yi Xiaohe, and Wang Yanyun, a TV personality, said on social media that Zhang had made unwanted sexual advances toward them.

In his statement, Zhang said it was normal for men and women in intellectual and media circles to “take pictures together, hug and kiss each other after consuming liquor”.

On Thursday, an academic at Communication University of China in Beijing was accused by a student of a sexual assault in 2016. The university in a statement vowed to launch an investigation and deal with the matter with zero tolerance if confirmed.

A former professor at the same university, known to be a training camp for China’s future TV personalities, was also accused Thursday of uninvited sexual advances in 2008 by an ex-student.

CENSORSHIP

Accusations that a prominent personality on the state broadcaster CCTV, molested an intern emerged on Thursday but the posts on Weibo were quickly removed.

The personality could not be immediately reached, while CCTV did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

On Friday, the personality’s name was the top censored topic on Weibo, according to Free Weibo, an independent platform that lists and ranks all search phrases blocked on Sina Weibo. “Metoo” and “Me too” ranked 8th and 9th, respectively.

A Beijing-based magazine, Portrait, on Thursday, told its readers in an online article to share their own stories of being sexually assaulted. It said in a subsequent post that it had received more than 1,700 stories in less than 24 hours.

Portrait’s article on Tencent’s WeChat platform has since been removed.

By contrast, the confession of Lei, the charity head, was widely covered by state media, including China Daily.

Men in sports have also been implicated in the #MeToo accusations this week. On Friday, a 17-year old high school student in the eastern city of Ningbo said online that she had been sexually assaulted by two badminton coaches.

The global #MeToo movement was triggered by accusations by dozens of women against U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, including rape, triggering a wider scandal that has roiled Hollywood and beyond. Weinstein has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.

The catalyst for a Chinese #MeToo-style movement came in December last year when a U.S.-based Chinese software engineer published a blog post accusing a professor at a Beijing University of sexual harassment.

In China, the hashtag #MeToo has so far appeared more than 77 million times on Weibo, although the majority of the posts with that hashtag are not viewable.

On Thursday, the state-controlled People’s Daily posted a Ted Talks video about sexual assault on its Weibo account.

“Hope this post won’t be scrubbed,” one Weibo user commented about the video clip.

(Reporting by Pei Li and Ryan Woo; Editing by Philip McClellan)

Eight on trial for rape, murder of girl in India’s Kashmir amid public anger

Children attend a protest against the rape of an eight-year-old girl, in Kathua, near Jammu and a teenager in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh state, in New Delhi, India April 15, 2018. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – Eight men accused of involvement in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state appeared in court on Monday for the first hearing in a case that sparked nationwide outrage and criticism of the ruling party.

The girl, from a nomadic community that roams the forests of Kashmir, was drugged, held captive in a temple and sexually assaulted for a week before being strangled and battered to death with a stone in January, police said.

Public anger at the crime led to protests in cities across India over the past few days, with outrage fueled by support for the accused initially shown by state government ministers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The protests have also focused on another rape allegedly involving a BJP lawmaker in the crime-ridden, most populous, poor northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The outrage has drawn parallels with massive protests that followed the gang rape and murder of a woman on a Delhi bus in 2012, which forced the then Congress-led government to enact tough new rape laws including the death penalty.

Yet India has long been plagued by violence against women and children – reported rapes climbed 60 percent from 2012 to 40,000 in 2016, and many more go unreported, especially in rural areas.

Reports of torture, rape and murder of another child have emerged from Modi’s western home state of Gujarat.

In that case, the corpse of a girl was found near a cricket ground in the city of Surat a week ago.

The post-mortem showed she had been tortured and sexually assaulted before being strangled. The body had 86 injury marks, including some inflicted to her genitalia with hard, blunt objects, while more minor injuries suggest she had been beaten with a stick or slapped.

Doctors estimate that the unidentified girl was about 12, police said.

As the groundswell of revulsion grew, Modi assured the country on Friday that the guilty would not be shielded, but he has been criticized for failing to speak out sooner.

Before leaving for an official visit to Europe this week, Modi received a letter from 50 former police chiefs, ambassadors and senior civil servants upbraiding the political leadership over its weak response.

“The bestiality and the barbarity involved in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old child shows the depths of depravity that we have sunk into,” the former officials said.

“In post-Independence India, this is our darkest hour and we find the response of our government, the leaders of our political parties inadequate and feeble.”

The letter went further by blaming the BJP and likeminded right-wing Hindu groups for promoting a culture of “majoritarian belligerence and aggression” in Jammu, and in the Uttar Pradesh case it blasted the party for using feudal strongmen, who behave like gangsters, to shore up its rule.

The former officials said they held no political affiliation other than to uphold the values of India’s secular constitution that guarantees equal rights to all citizens. Some of the signatories have spoken out in the past also against Modi’s Hindu nationalist party accusing it of whipping up hostility towards India’s 172 million Muslims.

THREATS AGAINST LAWYER

Fallout from the 2012 rape case led to the resignation of Congress chief minister of Delhi. This time, Congress was quick to realize the mood of the country, with party leader Rahul Gandhi leading the first major protest in the capital last week.

On Monday, Gandhi tweeted that there had been nearly 20,000 child rapes in India in 2016, and urged Modi to fast-track prosecutions “if he is serious about providing ‘justice for our daughters'”.

Though the rape and killing of the girl in Kashmir had been known about for months, the backlash erupted after the charge sheet giving gruesome details of the crime was filed last week.

It alleged that the attack was part of a plan to drive the nomads out of Kathua district in Jammu, the mostly Hindu portion of India’s only Muslim-majority state.

The alleged ringleader of the campaign, retired bureaucrat Sanji Ram, looked after a small Hindu temple where the girl had been held and assaulted. Two of the eight on trial are police officers who stand accused of being bribed to stifle the investigation.

After Monday’s initial hearing in Srinagar, the judge adjourned the case until April 28 while the Supreme Court heard a petition from the lawyer representing the victim’s family to have the trial held elsewhere due to fears for her safety.

Ahead of the trial, the lawyer said she had been threatened with rape and death for taking up the case.

“I was threatened yesterday that ‘we will not forgive you’. I am going to tell Supreme Court that I am in danger,” said the lawyer, Deepika Singh Rawat, who has fought for a proper investigation since the girl’s body was found in January.

The Supreme Court also ordered security for the victim’s family after her father said he too feared for their safety.

Two ministers from the BJP, which shares power in Jammu and Kashmir, were forced to resign after being pilloried for joining a rally in support of the accused men.

(This version of the story corrects first paragraph below sub-head to show Delhi chief minister lost election, not forced to resign)

(Additional reporting by Suchitra Mohanty in NEW DELHI; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Robert Birsel)

Rape used as wide-scale weapon of war in Syria: U.N. report

Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria (R), arrives with Karen Abuzayd, member of the Commission before the launch of their report on sexual and gender-based violence in Syria at the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – Syrian government forces and allied militias have raped and sexually assaulted women, girls and men in a campaign of war to punish opposition communities – acts that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, U.N. investigators said on Thursday.

In a major report, they found that opposition groups in Syria’s protracted civil war had also committed crimes of sexual violence and torture although these were “considerably less common”.

The report also said Islamic State (IS) and other armed extremist groups have executed women, men and children on charges of adultery, forced girls into marriage and persecuted homosexuals.

The 29-page report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, issued as Syria enters its eighth year of war, is based on 454 interviews with survivors, relatives, eyewitnesses, defectors, lawyers and medical staff.

Government forces raped civilians of both sexes during house searches and ground operations in the early stages of the conflict, and later at checkpoints and detention facilities, it said. The youngest known victim was a nine-year-old girl.

“Rape of women and girls was documented in 20 government political and military intelligence branches, and rape of men and boys was documented in 15 branches,” the report by the U.N. war crimes investigators said.

The independent experts led by Paulo Pinheiro – who have compiled confidential lists of suspects since 2011 – did not name individual perpetrators but said they had documented “numerous” cases of rapes by high-level officers.

Branches where rapes took place included Aleppo, Deraa, Homs, Hama and Damascus, as well as Sednaya military prison and the air force intelligence branch at Mezzeh military airport, both near the capital, the report said.

“Sexual violence against females and males is used to force confessions, to extract information, as punishment as well as to terrorize opposition communities,” the report said.

Victims suffered shame, depression, incontinence, impotence and miscarriages, and rejection by their families, it said.

The investigators found “no evidence of a systematic practice” on the part of armed groups to use sexual and gender-based violence to instill fear, but said that incidents had occurred in the context of sectarianism or revenge attacks.

Throughout Syria’s conflict, U.N. investigators had received allegations of extremist and terrorist groups imposing “mediaeval punishments on men accused of homosexuality”.

Women accused of adultery have been killed by stoning by the Islamist Jabhat Fateh al-Sham group, while homosexual men were thrown off a building by Jabhat al-Nusra jihadists, according to the report.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

#MeToo effect: Calls flood U.S. sexual assault hotlines

Volunteers on the National Sexual Assault Hotline work both over the phone and via web chat at the offices of the U.S.'s largest anti-sexual violence organization, the Rape Abuse Incest National Network, in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2018.

By Lisa Lambert

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The phones at U.S. sexual assault hotlines have been ringing in record numbers as the #MeToo social movement spurs victims to reach out for help, sending organizations scrambling to keep up.

Calls spiked when the movement began in October, with people waiting up to three hours to talk to someone at the country’s largest one, the National Sexual Assault Hotline.

The number of calls to the hotline operated by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) surged 25 percent in November from a year earlier, and another 30 percent in December, according to RAINN. Its 209,480 total calls in 2017 were the most for any year since its founding in 1993.

Last fall, actress Alyssa Milano of the television show “Charmed” asked women who had been sexually assaulted or harassed to post “Me Too” in response to allegations made against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein, accused of sexual abuse by dozens of women, has denied having nonconsensual sexual contact with anyone. Reuters has not been able to independently confirm the accusations.

At the national hotline’s call center, the lights that workers flip on to indicate they are on the phone never seemed to turn off, said Celia Gamboa, a manager at the national hotline. The chat app most callers prefer was flooded with messages, she said. The #MeToo movement almost always came up.

“It wasn’t just a one-time thing,” Gamboa said. “We’re just going to continue to see that type of flow into the future.”

RAINN added 40 employees to its staff of 200 and stepped up volunteer recruiting, said CEO Scott Berkowitz. That has helped chip away at the wait times, he said.

Elsewhere, Network for Victim Recovery of D.C. saw a spike in calls about sexual harassment. Executive Director Bridgette Stumpf said that unfortunately, the center can often only recommend private attorneys for people whose harassment did not include violence, adding such help may be too expensive for many victims.

The DC Rape Crisis Center now sees an average of 70 people a week seeking legal, physical or psychological help, up from 30 to 40 before #MeToo, said Executive Director Indira Henard. It also saw a bump in donations last fall following the #MeToo postings.

“It is for the record books,” Henard said. “I don’t believe there has ever been a time in our history when we talked about sexual violence and its impact this way.”

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

Chicago homicides fall 16 percent in 2017

Chicago Police officers investigate a crime scene after a motorist was shot in the head and lost control of his vehicle along the 5300 block of west Monroe Street in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 31, 2017. The driver later died in the hospital, according to the police.

(Reuters) – Homicides in Chicago fell 16 percent in 2017 while shootings were down and firearms arrests were up, police said on Monday, marking a reduction in bloodshed that made the city a symbol of U.S. gun violence and an object of criticism for President Donald Trump.

Police reported 650 homicides in an annual report on crime statistics, down from 771 in 2016. Shooting incidents fell 22 percent and the number of shooting victims fell by 892 people, a 21 percent drop. Meanwhile, gun arrests increased 27 percent and police reported seizing more than 8,600 illegal weapons.

Police attributed the drop to putting more officers on the streets, investing in new technology and a smarter policing strategy.

The city was also coming off a high baseline after the number of homicides in 2016, which represented a nearly 60 percent spike from the previous year.

The United States’ third largest city still ranks No. 1 in murders, with more than the two largest cities combined. New York and Los Angles each had fewer than 300 homicides in 2017.

Overall crime for other offenses – including sexual assault, robbery, aggravated battery, burglary and vehicle theft – was down 2 percent, police said.

“I am proud of the progress our officers made in reducing gun violence all across the city in 2017, but none of us are satisfied,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said in the report. “In 2018, we are going to work to build on the progress we made last year – to reduce gun violence, to save lives and to find justice for victims.”

Chicago initiated police reforms in 2017 after a federal investigation found officers routinely violated people’s civil rights, citing excessive force and racially discriminatory conduct.

The city hired more than 1,100 new police officers in 2017, and the department issued a new policy on use of force.

Crime fell by 43 percent in Englewood district and 26 percent in Harrison, the first two districts to employ so-called Strategic Decision Support Centers, police said.

The centers use predictive crime software to enable a more efficient deployment of officers, install more cameras, set up gunshot detection systems and send real-time notifications and intelligence data to officers on their smartphones, the department said.

The deployment of more than 7,000 body cameras was the largest of its kind in the United States, the report said.

Trump made Chicago crime a theme of his 2016 campaign and kept criticizing the city in 2017 even as crime fell.

“Crime and killings in Chicago have reached such epidemic proportions that I am sending in Federal help. 1714 shootings in Chicago this year!” the Republican president wrote on Twitter in June.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Trump’s tweet referred to sending more federal agents to Chicago and plans to prosecute firearms cases aggressively.

A spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a Democrat, thanked the U.S. government for 20 additional agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives but said the progress was made before those agents had arrived.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Frank McGurty and Jonathan Oatis)