The New York Times reports from New Orleans that a private police force called the French Quarter Task Force has significantly reduced crime by deploying round-the-clock patrols consisting of “armed officers zigzagging the neighborhood in matte black Polaris Rangers … retrofitted with blue halogen lights and a dock for an iPad, which serve[s] up requests in a manner similar to Uber.”

According to the story, the whole thing started with a dare:

Back in January, following the robbery of his home and the neighboring bar, [taskforce creator Sidney] Torres produced a television ad squarely blaming the mayor for the recent crime wave. ‘‘The French Quarter is under siege by criminals…. We should hold the administration accountable for the failures of not protecting the French Quarter.’’ …

Responding to Torres’s attack ads, [New Orleans’ Mayor Mitch] Landrieu presented Torres with something of a schoolyard dare — one that would ultimately lead the mayor to grant a private citizen extraordinary influence over matters of public safety. ‘‘He made millions and millions and millions of dollars off garbage contracts in the French Quarter,’’ Landrieu remarked on a local news channel. ‘‘Maybe he should just take some of that money and do it himself, if he thinks it’s so easy.’’ …

Three months later, on an evening in early April, Torres, dressed in skinny jeans and a flowing linen shirt, sat grinning at an outdoor table of an Italian restaurant in the Quarter. ‘‘When the mayor said that thing about me putting my money were my mouth is, I didn’t plan on any of this,’’ he recalled. His decision to take Landrieu up on his challenge was, in Torres’s view, similar to the circumstances under which he founded his sanitation company. In 2005, after Katrina hit, Torres was housing emergency medical workers in the hotels he owned at the time; trash collection had yet to resume, so he rented a truck to haul his garbage to the dump. ‘‘Other businesses asked me to pick theirs up, and so I slapped my name on the truck. One of my first contracts was the Quarter, and within a few years we were picking up over 14,000 homes in the city and state.’’

As he spoke, one of the N.O.P.D. officers in his employ — making $50 an hour, a premium rate for off-duty details — drove past in a Polaris. The force had been on the streets for two weeks, and while small in numbers, the sudden ubiquity of their flashing blue lights, combined with the privately funded presence of the State Police, provided something the Quarter had been lacking: the sense that the police were always nearby. ‘‘What I’m doing now isn’t all that different from the trash thing,’’ Torres said. ‘‘It’s about seeing a need — an unfortunate need — and stepping up to fill it.’’

Torres made it clear, though, that he did not view himself as merely a generous patron. ‘‘I’m already getting calls from other places, like Arkansas, that are interested in the app.’’