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Jason Clare … seat under threat. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Home Affairs Minister, Jason Clare, says western Sydney families are living in fear and want more police on the streets as the federal government sharpens the focus of its fledgling anti-crime campaign.

But the Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, suggested the bid to reduce crime in the area was ''an election stunt'', with half of Labor's 10 most marginal seats being in western Sydney or on the central coast.

On Wednesday the Prime Minister said she had asked Mr Clare to investigate ways to reduce suburban violence and to explore the limits of the federal government's legal and constitutional responsibilities in combating crime.

Julia Gillard cited the street battles fought in the Brisbane suburb of Logan between warring families and a string of shootings in Sydney's west and south-west in announcing the crackdown on crime.

But on Thursday Mr Clare said voters in western Sydney were demanding the state and federal governments work together to address violence in that area, ''and that's what they'll get from me''.

Mr Clare is the federal member for Blaxland, which is based in the area and is considered under threat in this year's election.

"I'm from western Sydney,'' Mr Clare said. ''Western Sydney people are worried about crime and worried for the safety of their families. They want more police on the streets and more criminals off the streets.

''We are determined to help western Sydney because we think western Sydney should be safer.''

In November Fairfax Media revealed internal polling showed 10 seats in NSW, predominantly in western Sydney, could fall if an election were held immediately, including McMahon, held by the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, and Watson, held by the Environment Minister, Tony Burke. Others considered under threat were Parramatta, Barton, Reid, Werriwa, Fowler, Banks and Greenway. The seats of Blaxland and Chifley would be close calls.

Mr Clare said he had been asked to prepare options to address violence in western Sydney, but said he would ask the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission to speak to state and territory police across the country.

He said he would work with the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police and the head of the Australian Crime Commission and other federal law enforcement agencies to look at what assistance the federal government could provide.

''All jurisdictions should work together; that's what western Sydney wants, and that's what it deserves," he said.

Mr Clare's office said the question of police numbers would be discussed as part of the consultation. Funding for police numbers is the responsibility of the states and territories.

But Mr Abbott ridiculed the proposal.

''Is that an election stunt or is there a general role for the federal government?'' Mr Abbott asked.

He said if Ms Gillard was ''fair dinkum'' about reducing crime, her government would not have cut about $60 million out of the border protection budget.

Mr Clare said customs officials were now seizing twice as many parcels containing drugs or other contraband as they were five years ago. The NSW Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, rejected the suggestion that more police was the solution.

''The NSW government has delivered record numbers of police who are doing a great job taking guns off our streets but they are being undermined by Australia's weak borders,'' he said.

Responding to claims by the NSW Liberal government that federal Labor had failed "dismally" on protecting Australia's borders from guns, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said that government research in 2011 had found only 1 per cent of Australian firearms came "over the borders".

The Prime Minister told Fairfax Radio on Friday that 44 per cent of firearms in the country had not been given back when they should have during the Howard government's buy-back scheme. A further 12 per cent had been stolen.

Ms Gillard said that while Australia did not have a National Rifle Association like the United States - "and thank goodness we don't"  - Australia still had a problem with guns.  

She said she didn't think it was "right or fair" that people in Sydney had to wonder if a bullet was going to hit their street.

with Judith Ireland, Sean Nicholls

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