RAMPAGING yobs in balaclavas are terrorising villagers with knives and abuse.

The youths, some believed to be as young as 11, were seen “swarming” around Hassocks on the day the village was switching on its Christmas lights and one resident said the area has become “like the Bronx”.

Police are investigating reports that one boy was pinned to the floor, punched in the face and burned with cigarettes, and that one man was attacked by the gang.

The boy suffered a broken nose and whiplash, and had to spend a day in hospital after the attack, while the man is believed to have had his phone and wallet taken at knifepoint.

Villagers say there are not enough police on patrol, and there has been talk of “vigilante” patrols to combat the group.

One parent sent a picture to The Argus that she said she found on the social media site Instagram, showing a youth holding a knife above his face. It includes the message “Someone link up in bh today”, a reference to Burgess Hill.

One woman said: “They were wearing balaclavas, hurling abuse and shouting. They pulled the boy from the bench then punched him in the face.

“He tried to get away, but they got him on the ground and punched him. He suffered a broken nose and whiplash, and spent the next day in hospital.

“It was shocking that these kids can cause such havoc.”

There have also been reports of vandalism and antisocial behaviour at night in Adastra Park, where the war memorial has been damaged and plants ripped up out of the flower beds.

One resident said: “We have had bottles being thrown at cars, and children as young as 11 running around in balaclavas, everything in black. They think they are gangsters. They are taking people’s money. It is happening regularly.

“There are no police, and people here are not used to this. We are a growing village, and there are hundreds of houses planned, many will be for social housing, so this problem could explode.

“We need CCTV to be put in, people have had enough.”

Concerned residents have written to the police and parish council calling for action to be taken.

One resident said: “I’m not a vigilante, nor does anybody need to be, but people here are talking in that manner. They don’t want to see other children being beaten up.

“It generally happens after dark, they go to the park to smoke drugs, and they are abusive. This is Hassocks, not the Bronx.”

It happened at the Light Up Hassocks event on November 30.

The resident added: “The Light Up Hassocks was very busy, and for stallholders it was apparent that there were a group of a dozen youths swarming up and down the street.”

Police confirmed they are investigating reports of an attack on a man in his 40s, and an attack on a 14-year-old boy. Report information on the Sussex Police website or by calling 101.