African Americans accounted for more than two thirds of murder victims in the city last year, and prosecutors are probing whether gangs are behind the double-digit spike.
Citywide homicides climbed 14 percent in 2010, driven largely by a 31 percent surge in black murder victims, according to a new NYPD analysis of crime statistics.
Black people account for just a quarter of the city's population but comprised 67 percent of the 536 homicide victims in 2010, the report said. Those ages 15 to 29 were most likely to be victims, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Despite making up just 3 percent of the city's population, they accounted for a third of all homicide victims.
By comparison, the number of white murder victims saw a significant drop, plummeting by 27 percent from 2009 to 2010. The number of Latino and Asian murder victims remained about the same, the report said.
The cause of the drastic spike in black murder victims wasn't immediately clear, but Ric Curtis, an anthropology professor of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the Journal the Brooklyn District Attorney's office asked him and his colleagues last year to investigate whether heightened gang activity may have played a role.
"Whatever it is, it's complex because it's not readily apparent what is causing it," Curtis told the paper.