We were there in Dec 2004 off Regal Princess. The dock area was barbed-wired and provided a safe environment to get from the ship into taxis that were waiting. The taxis were vans that took us to a gated secured shopping center (more barbed wire and armed guards) and to Dunn's River Falls Park, also a secured area. The ship's CD advised us to take only one type of Taxi; my memory is that we were told to look for the red license plates, but that may have changed. They were government controlled and had fixed rates. Dunn's River Falls was a beautiful place to visit and we there were lots of taxis/vans to take us back to the ship.
Even within the secured areas, the vendors were aggressive and didn't give up at "No, Thank You", but we felt safe. I don't think that would be the case just walking along the streets outside the secured areas.
Our van driver first collected fares, then took us to the gas pumps to fill up, thus giving us a 20 minute "tour" of the area and it was obvious that it is a land of serious division between the haves and have nots.
I can't compare to the way things were in the 90s but I hope this helps you.