Sajid Javid has admitted that the violence on Britain’s streets has left him scared for his children’s safety.
The home secretary made the admission as he outlined his blueprint for ending the bloodshed, which he said was a “national emergency” that should be treated like the outbreak of a “virulent disease”.
Mr Javid, who has been in his role since April 2018, called for a dual approach that limits opportunities to commit crime, coupled with early intervention to prevent young people being drawn into it.
But Labour’s Diane Abbott said: “More warm words will not bring an end to the bloodshed on our streets.”
The major policy speech from Mr Javid has been interpreted as paving the way for a run at the Conservative leadership when Theresa May steps aside.
The inclusion of personal elements to his speech – including a claim that he himself could have been drawn into a life of crime – will do little to quell such talk.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
On his own experience growing up, Mr Javid told the audience in east London: “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 dealers 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.”
In England and Wales in 2017/18 there were 285 homicides where the method of killing was a knife or sharp instrument, the highest number since records started in 1946.
Police recorded around 1.5 million “violent against the person offences” in the year to September, a jump of almost a fifth on the previous 12 months.
In a bid to tackle the problem, the government announced a £100m cash boost for police and relaxed the rules on the use of enhanced stop and search powers.
Mr Javid defended his change of policy on stop-and-search, insisting: “There are people alive today because of stop-and-search.”
The home secretary said he wants to use data to improve the government’s understanding of what drives people to illegal activity
A recent Home Office analysis found that the top 5% of crime hotspots accounted for 17% of total “acquisitive” offences, like burglaries and car thefts.
Meanwhile, a study has suggested that police could target areas of London which data has predicted as future hotspots of fatal stabbings.