Sajid Javid has revealed he could have been drawn into a life of crime, as he admitted the bloodshed on Britain’s streets has left him fearing for his children’s safety.
The Home Secretary described how he avoided being lured into shoplifting or drug dealing when growing up on what was dubbed “the most dangerous street in Britain”.
He cited his personal experiences as a boy and a father as he set out his blueprint for tackling the “national emergency” of surging violence.
In a speech in east London, Mr Javid said: “It’s not so difficult to see how, instead of being in the Cabinet, I could have actually turned out to have a life of crime myself.
“There were the pupils at school that shoplifted, and asked if I wanted to help.
“There were the drug addicts who stood near my school gates and told me that if joined in, I too could make some easy money.
“But I was lucky. I had loving and supporting parents, who despite their own circumstances gave me security.
“I had some brilliant teachers who motivated me.
“I had a girlfriend who believed in me and supported me despite my lack of prospects and went on to become my wife.
“Thanks to them all I have built a better life for myself and my family.”
Mr Javid, a father-of-four, described how recent increases in serious violence and knife crime have affected him as a parent.
He said: “I may be the Home Secretary, but I’m not ashamed to confess I have stayed up late at night waiting to hear the key turning in the door.
“And only then going to bed knowing that they have come home safe and sound.
“I know that if I don’t feel safe on the streets, if I don’t think the streets are safe enough for my own children, or if we see our communities being torn apart by crime, then something has gone terribly wrong.”
The Government and police have come under intense pressure over violent crime.
Earlier this year a spate of fatal stabbings prompted warnings of a “national emergency”.
There were 285 homicides where the method of killing was by a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales in 2017/18 – the highest number since records started in 1946.
In the year to September, police recorded about 1.5 million “violence against the person” offences – a jump of nearly a fifth on the previous 12 months.
Polling data released last week suggested that public concern about crime is at its highest since the riots of 2011.
Ministers have announced a £100 million cash injection for police to tackle knife crime and relaxed rules on the use of enhanced stop-and-search powers in badly hit areas.
In his speech, Mr Javid hit out at middle class drug users, saying their illicit habits were “adding fuel to the fire that is engulfing our communities”.
He defended his decision to boost stop-and-search, insisting: “There are people alive today because of stop-and-search.”
The Home Secretary wants to exploit data to improve the Government’s understanding of the pathways to illegal activity, and harness technology to stop crime happening in the first place.
Recent Home Office analysis found that the top 5% of crime hotspots accounted for 17% of total “acquisitive” offences, such as burglaries and car thefts.
Mr Javid, who said serious violence should be treated like “the outbreak of some virulent disease – a national emergency”, also sought to reassure frontline staff about the Government’s proposed “public health approach” to the issue.
Under the plans, state bodies could be made subject to a legal duty requiring them to have “due regard” to the prevention and tackling of serious violence.
The proposals drew criticism from leaders in a number of the professions that would be affected.
Mr Javid said: “It is not about blaming those frontline staff for the violence, or asking them to do more.
“Far from it. It is about giving them the confidence to report their concerns, safe in the knowledge that everyone will close ranks to protect that child.”