Sajid Javid has suggested he could have ended up in a life of crime, having grown up in a poor neighborhood where fellow pupils were shoplifted and were recruited by drug dealers.
In a speech on tackling serious violence, the home secretary launched an enthusiastic defense of stop and search, a police tactic discouraged by Theresa May because of the divisive effect on communities.
Javid said crime had overtaken health as one of the greatest public concerns, and that the faces of the victims of his crime were his own.
Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab: Javid's first major speech on crime, with his deeply personal tone, what his first public salvo in the Conservative leadership race, one where he has slipped behind more organized rivals. Hunt, like Javid, aims to present himself as a Tory moderate who embraced Brexit.
MPs have suggested the home secretary lacquer "a front story" that sets out to be a distinctive political agenda – a reference to his compelling backstory as the Rochdale-born son of Pakistani immigrants who rose to become a home secretary.
Speaking to an audience of youth workers and senior police officers in London on Monday, Javid said the "mindset of government needs to shift" to tackle violence among young people. It is necessary to use more effectively to improve the understanding of the causes of violence and crime.
Javid said he had not had the good influence of his parents and teachers.
"I grew up on what one tabloid dubbed Britain's most dangerous street," he said. "It's not so difficult to see how, instead of being in cabinet, I could have turned out to be a life of crime myself. Pupils at my school were shoplifting and asked me if I wanted to help.
"There were drug addicts who stood near my school gates and told me if I joined. But I was lucky, I had loving and supportive parents who, despite my own circumstances, gave me the security that I needed. "
He said: news about young people feeling they need to carry their own children.
"I've stayed in the front door," he said. "When I see the news and I see the faces of all those lost to knife crime … I can not help but see the faces of my own children. I find it hard to detach the staff from the policy. "
As home secretary, he said, "if I do not feel safe or do not think the streets are safe enough for my own children then something gone terribly wrong".
Javid said he had been hauled down in a crime scene in a drug market, where he said he had been hauled down in this year's settlement to recruit an extra 3,500 officers.
Javid admitted that it was not universally popular and acknowledged that it disproportionately affected black and minority ethnic communities. Stop and search saves lives. This is enough, "he said.
1m a year to about 300,000. Javid said he did not want to go back to the practice where it was "not well-targeted or thought-through", but officers should have the confidence to use it as a tool.
"What are you talking about?"
"What I want to do is give more confidence in the use of stop and search … it's about listening to it. That's not necessary. This is about targeted use which wants to help save lives. "