East St. Louis — A brawl broke out between three or four females Tuesday afternoon inside the Division of Human Services building in East St. Louis, and police are trying to locate them and determine what led to the fracas.
East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore said the department received a call at 12:30 p.m. reporting "a fight inside of the establishment. When our officers arrived, the fight was over and all parties involved were gone."
Floore said security guards inside the building told police that three or four females "got into a fight in the building. One of them had a pair of scissors either in her pocket or inside of her purse. The scissors were retrieved by on-site security."
Exactly what prompted the women to engage in an all-out brawl is still not clear, Floore said.
"Somebody taped it with their cellphone and put it on YouTube," the chief said. "Security said they heard conversation that is was over a boy. Somebody else said it was about a place in line. Nobody has come forth, and we'd like the victims or anyone else who has information to come into the Police Department and make a police report."
No one was injured, Floore said.
A security guard at DHS knew most of the people involved, and if they come back he will notify police, Floore said.
Floore said he believes additional security measures are needed at the building to help police ensure the safety of everyone there.
"I talked to the supervisor there about installing a metal detector so anyone entering the building will be checked for weapons," Floore said.
Meanwhile, Januari Smith, communications manager for DHS, also said the guards in the DHS building had subdued the fight by the time police arrived. The guards are armed, she said.
As far as security concerns, Smith said, the safety of the people who need assistance from DHS is paramount. "The director of Security and Emergency Preparedness is reviewing the video (YouTube), and I don't think it'll be too hard to identify who was in the office.
"We are also in the process of conducting an in-depth security assessment, which will include a review of security measures at the East St. Louis office and other facts related to the incident, including police response time and coverage to the area. Smith said corrective action will taken if necessary.
Asked whether she was shocked when she heard the news about the fight, Smith said, "An altercation of that magnitude and seriousness -- yes."
Smith said the DHS looks forward to working with the East St. Louis Police Department on safety plans to ensure the safety of the residents who need assistance from the department.
Smith didn't know how many people were in the office at the time of the brawl. "On many days the waiting room is full," she said.
"In the past few years, the demand for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the new name for food stamps), has skyrocketed.
"Typically when you come in, you have to sign in. So, we do know who was in the office," she said.
East St. Louis Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. said he wants to see whether the city of East St. Louis can "establish some kind of security situation with the state so we can ensure that everybody over there will be safe."
Parks said he understands that the site is a state building, but since "it is in our venue, we'd like to provide advice, direction and consultation with regards to keeping the facility and the people in it safe."
Asked for his reaction to the fight, Parks said, "just disappointed."
"I get so tired of people conducting themselves as hooligans whether you are talking about male or female," Parks said. "What was so pressing that you felt you needed to lash out and hit somebody?
"We all have issues that make us want to do things, but as adults you can't lash out and hit somebody," Parks said.