ORILLIA, Ont - Provincial police are investigating a rash of copper wire thefts in southern Ontario.

Hydro One says over the last two weeks, there have been 17 incidents of copper wire being stolen in Essa Township near Barrie.

Police say they believe the thief or thieves have been hacking into hydro poles using a sharp object like an axe to steal the wire.

Investigators are asking anyone who may have witnessed the thefts or know who may be behind them to come forward.

Copper has become a sought-after commodity as prices rise on global markets.

The business of stealing copper and copper derivatives has become a huge problem for power companies throughout the world.