The Times called them a “harbinger of spring” in the East Village. That was back in 2011, when the paper asked, “Where Have All the Crusties Gone?” Well, looks like they’re back.

During a gathering of locals last night at the 9th Precinct station house, a longtime resident complained about the swarm of travelers, as they’re often called, who had recently invaded his block on Second Avenue, between 7th and 8th Streets. Flashing photographs of the scruffy interlopers, he said that people in his building had to “walk over their pitbulls” and put up with their noise, panhandling and drinking. The gent, who asked B+B not to identify him, wanted to know if the cops could bust them.

This raised concerns about the crusties’ civil liberties. Public drinkers in Manhattan are no longer subject to arrest. However, Captain Vincent Greany, commanding officer of the 9th, said that such boozers can still get summons provided the cops catch them in action. He noted with a grin that his officers have “chased crusties from one block” only them to have reappear on fresh turf, a situation that prompted laughter from the crowd.

Many attendees at the 9th’s monthly Community Council meeting seemed tolerant of the crusties. An older woman characterized them as “roving bands who know their rights.” But several East Villagers were disturbed by their presence in the neighborhood. One silver-haired man, who told us he was against New York’s “communist” culture, claimed that building owners “control the pavement” outside their buildings and “could get people to move.”

Earlier, Greany reported that there had been 112 crimes committed in the East Village over the last 28 days with 73 of those falling into the category of grand larceny. He described the offenses as mostly thefts of personal property like cell phones left unattended in in parks, restaurants and subways. Responding to our question about last month’s string of burglaries, Greany said the 9th’s officers had made three new arrests and pronounced that crime wave as “under control.” But he added: “We can’t promise it won’t come back again.” Just like the crusties.